Autonomy Investigated Amid Claims it Inflated its Value Before HP Takeover

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Britain's top accounting watchdog is investigating claims that the former tech darling Autonomy fraudulently misrepresented its profitability.

The Financial Reporting Council (FRC) launched an investigation on Monday into Autonomy's financial reporting between January 2009 and June 2011.

The investigation comes after US technology giant HP accused Autonomy of misrepresenting how much money it was making before HP bought it in an $11bn (£7bn) takeover in August 2011.

HP claimed there appeared to be a "willful effort on behalf of certain former Autonomy employees" to inflate the value of the company "to mislead investors and potential buyers". Meg Whitman, HP's chief executive, said the alleged fraud forced her company to write down the value of Autonomy by $5bn.

Autonomy's billionare founder, Mike Lynch, said he "utterly rejects all allegations of impropriety".

A spokesman for the FRC said individuals could be fined an unlimited amount and banned from serving as directors if the investigation finds evidence of wrongdoing.

"If the tribunal upholds a complaint, there is a wide range of sanctions which it can impose including an unlimited fine, exclusion from membership of a professional body covered by one of the schemes and withdrawal of practising certificates or licences," the FRC said.

The FRC is attempting to have William Rollason, a former director of Farepak and parent company European Home Retail struck off for his role in the collapse of Farepak, the Christmas hamper business.

The FRC is the disciplinary body for accountants and actuaries, and deals with "cases which raise important issues affecting the public interest".

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Rupert Neate, for guardian.co.uk on Monday 11th February 2013 13.31 Europe/London

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image: © Justin Marty