View all newsletters
Receive our newsletter - data, insights and analysis delivered to you
  1. Technology
  2. Software
May 24, 2024

UK tech entrepreneur Mike Lynch denies fraud at US trial

On trial in San Francisco, Mike Lynch is accused by HP of accounting fraud in relation to its acquisition of the firm he co-founded, Autonomy.

By Greg Noone

Mike Lynch has denied fraud in a US court. Lynch is accused of orchestrating accounting irregularities at the startup he co-founded, Autonomy, shortly before its acquisition by Hewlett-Packard (HP) for $11bn. Lynch testified that he was not involved in any of the transactions the prosecution alleges took place at the company, which HP claims to have resulted in it losing $4bn in a separate civil suit. 

“I think Autonomy was an extremely successful company,” Mike Lynch told prosecutors under oath, referring to the startup before its purchase by HP in 2012. “From a financial point of view, it was highly profitable.” 

A photo of a HP office building, used to illustrate a story about the Mike Lynch trial.
US federal prosecutors claim UK tech founder Mike Lynch fraudulently enticed HP to buy his startup, Autonomy, by inflating its revenues. (Photo by Shutterstock)

Mike Lynch falsely juiced Autonomy revenue, claim US prosecutors

Lynch was originally charged with 14 counts of conspiracy and fraud by US federal prosecutors in 2018, claiming that the UK tech founder had purposely inflated Autonomy’s revenues to boost its chances of being bought out by a larger firm. Prosecutors argue that Autonomy also falsely claimed to be a pure software company, instead engaging in “hidden, loss-making resales of hardware.”

Following a successful civil suit against Lynch by HP in 2022, the founder’s criminal trial began in March. Since then, prosecutors have called over 30 witnesses. Lynch told jurors in his opening remarks that the process had been “surreal,” referring back to his previous claim that he was largely involved in tech issues at Autonomy and left daily management of its financial side to others in the company. This includes Sushovan Hussain, Autonomy’s former CFO, who was sentenced to five years for fraud in 2019. “I’ve sat and watched a parade of witnesses that I’ve never met,” said Lynch, “and a series of transactions I had no involvement in, and not much else.”

Decline and fall of Autonomy

Born in London to Irish immigrants, Mike Lynch quickly forged a reputation as the UK’s entrepreneurial equivalent to Steve Jobs. The firm he co-founded in 1996, Autonomy, provided software capable of breaking down large corporate datasets. Two years later the startup was floated on the NASDAQ, before embarking on a series of multi-million dollar acquisitions of smaller rivals.

Shortly after its purchase by HP, however, Autonomy quickly unravelled. Lynch was fired by the firm’s new masters in 2012 for performance issues, with most of the original board having also abruptly left the once-promising startup. That same year, HP wrote Autonomy’s value down by $8.8bn, alleging accounting improprieties prior to the startup’s acquisition, and fired its own chief executive Léo Apotheke for overseeing the deal. Audit giant Deloitte was subsequently fined £15m by regulators for failing to spot these irregularities. 

Read more: HP plans up to 6000 layoffs as PC market slows down

Content from our partners
Scan and deliver
GenAI cybersecurity: "A super-human analyst, with a brain the size of a planet."
Cloud, AI, and cyber security – highlights from DTX Manchester

Websites in our network
Select and enter your corporate email address Tech Monitor's research, insight and analysis examines the frontiers of digital transformation to help tech leaders navigate the future. Our Changelog newsletter delivers our best work to your inbox every week.
  • CIO
  • CTO
  • CISO
  • CSO
  • CFO
  • CDO
  • CEO
  • Architect Founder
  • MD
  • Director
  • Manager
  • Other
Visit our privacy policy for more information about our services, how Progressive Media Investments may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications. Our services are intended for corporate subscribers and you warrant that the email address submitted is your corporate email address.