HP accounting chief resigns following Autonomy debacle

The chief executive of accounting at Hewlett-Packard has resigned, but has the failed Autonomy buyout demanded the sacrifice?


Hewlett-Packard's accounting chief plans to step down after coping with the HP's $8.8 billion writedown following the purchase of Autonomy.

According to The Associated Press, Marc Levine, senior vice president and principal accounting officer of the tech giant has resigned and will step down from his post on November 1. Regulatory filings state that Levine, who took on his accounting post in March last year, resigned on September 18.

Levine has worked at Hewlett-Packard since 1988.

HP acquired British firm Autonomy for $11.1 billion in 2011. The tech giant was forced to take an $8.8 billion writedown in its fourth quarter earnings report last year due to the acquisition. The Palo Alto, Calif., company said that it was a victim of multibillion dollar fraud, writing within its earnings report:

"The majority of this impairment charge is linked to serious accounting improprieties, disclosure failures and outright misrepresentations at Autonomy Corporation plc that occurred prior to HP's acquisition of Autonomy and the associated impact of those improprieties, failures and misrepresentations on the expected future financial performance of the Autonomy business over the long-term."

Former CEO Leo Apotheker planned to make HP more of a software-based company, but the problem was that Autonomy apparently used hardware sales to bump up the balance sheet.

While HP CEO Meg Whitman is now stuck with the deal -- which proved to be a bust and embarrassment to the company, as well as a knife in the side of shareholders -- Apotheker said that "the due diligence process was meticulous and thorough, and included two of the world’s largest and most respected auditing firms working on behalf of HP."

"Much of the process relied on public financial reports -- accounting statements approved, filed and backed by Autonomy's leadership, board and auditors. It's apparent that Autonomy's alleged accounting misrepresentations misled a number of people over time -- not just HP's leadership team, auditors and directors. In fact, the alleged improprieties apparently came to light only after an internal whistleblower raised the issue."

In response, Autonomy said that HP's allegations are false, and the British firm was not bought under false pretenses. Autonomy's former chief executive, Mike Lynch, claimed that HP "botched up handling" of the deal.

These defenses make what actually happened fuzzy, but either way, HP shareholders are still seething. Levine, as a member of the accountancy department, may take some of the blame for the botched-up acquisition, or he may simply be the latest head placed on a pike to soothe the ire of investors.

Whitman, Apotheker, former HP chairman Ray Lane and Lynch are being taken to court by angry shareholders over the "vastly overvalued" deal. Hewlett-Packard Chairman Ray Lane gave up his post , joining chairmen John Hammergren and G. Kennedy Thompson in boardroom exile.