Mike Lynch, U.K. Tech Mogul, Is Acquitted of Fraud

Mike Lynch, a British software mogul who was once one of his country’s most celebrated chief executives, was acquitted of fraud on Thursday in San Francisco federal court, clearing him of charges that he had led one of the biggest frauds in the technology industry.

A jury found him not guilty of falsely inflating revenue at Autonomy, the company he founded and led, when he sold it to Hewlett-Packard for $11 billion in 2011.

Mr. Lynch, 58, who faced decades in prison, had initially been charged with 16 counts of fraud and conspiracy, though one fraud charge was eventually dismissed.

Thursday’s verdict, coming after a monthslong trial in California, is a milestone in Mr. Lynch’s decade-long odyssey to clear his name.

HP acquired Autonomy, paying a 60 percent premium over its stock price, in a bid to transform itself into a high-growth software provider. But questions soon arose about Autonomy’s figures, and before long the California-based tech pioneer took an $8.8 billion accounting charge on the acquisition, citing “serious accounting improprieties.” HP’s stock price plummeted.

The company subsequently accused Mr. Lynch and his lieutenants of providing misleading information about the company’s finances.

At the time, investors called the Autonomy acquisition one of the worst deals in history, and a turning point in the decline of HP as a leading icon of the tech industry.

It also tarnished the reputation of Mr. Lynch, who rose from working-class origins outside London to the heights of British industry. A maker of data analytics software, Autonomy became one of Britain’s biggest technology success stories. Mr. Lynch in 2011 was named a scientific adviser to David Cameron, the prime minister at the time, and a director of the BBC.

Mr. Lynch argued that HP executives including Meg Whitman, the chief executive who fired him, were blaming him for their own mismanagement of Autonomy.

In 2018, American federal prosecutors charged Mr. Lynch with fraud, accusations that the executive consistently denied.

The odds of an acquittal only diminished over the years. Autonomy’s chief financial officer, Sushovan Hussain, was convicted of similar charges and served prison time. And in 2022, a London judge overseeing a civil trial against Mr. Lynch — a case described as “amongst the longest and most complex in English legal history” — found him liable for defrauding HP. (HP has sought some $4 billion in damages; Mr. Lynch has argued he owes nothing.)

Last year, Mr. Lynch lost a fight to avoid extradition to the United States. He was taken to San Francisco and confined to a townhouse under 24-hour surveillance and court-mandated private security, on his dime.

At the California trial, which began in mid-March, prosecutors argued that Mr. Lynch was the “driving force” behind a complicated fraud in which hardware sales were improperly classified as software ones to bolster revenue, and contracts were backdated. Stephen Chamberlain, a former Autonomy vice president of finance, was also on trial on similar charges.

Mr. Lynch, who took the stand in his defense, testified that he was not involved in Autonomy’s day-to-day financial operations and that he delegated many tasks.

Jurors took about two days to reach their verdict, finding Mr. Lynch and Mr. Chamberlain not guilty on all charges.

“I am elated with today’s verdict and grateful to the jury for their attention to the facts over the last 10 weeks,” Mr. Lynch said in a statement. “I am looking forward to returning to the U.K. and getting back to what I love most: my family and innovating in my field.”

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