Hewlett Packard: Foreign Bribes and Search

April 10, 2014

I was disappointed with the news stories about Hewlett Packard’s recent hitch in its git-along. For example, I read “Hewlett Packard Agrees to $108 Million Fine for Foreign Bribes” and saw not one reference to information retrieval, search, and content processing technology. In my view, had HP used the Autonomy technology to process its internal information, IDOL and the Digital Reasoning Engine would have generated some outputs that pointed to anomalies like those the investigators found.

Apparently “findability” is more difficult than it appears even when the company in the spotlight owns one of the go-to search systems. I assumed that it would be trivial to run a few queries and produce documents and “big data” that would show that Hewlett Packard what was cooking in its subsidiaries or with non US deals.

Search apparently was not up to the task because allegations had to be “resolved by third parties.” Apparently it required attorneys and government folks to figure out that HP was taking some short cuts. Here’s a passage I noted:

“Hewlett-Packard subsidiaries created a slush fund for bribe payments, set up an intricate web of shell companies and bank accounts to launder money, employed two sets of books to track bribe recipients, and used anonymous email accounts and prepaid mobile telephones to arrange covert meetings to hand over bags of cash,” said Deputy Assistant Attorney General Bruce Swartz in the Justice Department statement.

Business actions like those mentioned in the Silicon Beat write up make it clear that HP management may not know what is going on or may not be paying attention to existing information about company activities.

Is this an anomaly?

I can’t answer the question, but when investigators from various countries are able to find useful factoids, it raises one question:

What does HP’s much hyped information retrieval system do for company executives?

and

Was important management information not available to HP’s senior executives? If so, who filtered the digital content?

This $100 million fine comes on the heels of HP’s paying $57 million to settle a shareholder lawsuit about the “personal computer maker’s former management of defrauding shareholders by abandoning a business model it had long touted.” See http://reut.rs/1iUC0re

The persistent HP business model seems to be one that does not engender my confidence in the company.

I am not sure the IDOL search system is at fault. Does HP use Autonomy’s fraud detection components? Why not index content, run queries, and make decisions based on the heterogeneous types of information that Autonomy can process, usually with some effectiveness?

The jury’s still out on search at HP. Two big fines in a short period of time is unsettling to me because both are germane to the effective use of information retrieval technology.

Stephen E Arnold, April 10, 2014

Comments

2 Responses to “Hewlett Packard: Foreign Bribes and Search”

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