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HP: Caveat Venditor Becomes the Company Slogan

March 31, 2015

[I was going to post this on April Fool’s Day. But I thought that some of my very small audience would think I was posting a joke. This is no joke, I fear.]

I am not sure my high school Latin is working, but I think I am close. You know the phrase, Caveat emptor. My view is that Hewlett Packard’s new slogan is, “Seller beware” or caveat venditor in my version of the dead language.

Navigate to “HP Sues Autonomy Co-Founder Lynch in U.K. for $5.1 Billion.” The write up reports:

Hewlett-Packard Co. escalated its more than two-year-old battle with Michael Lynch, suing the Autonomy Corp. co-founder, as well as a former chief financial officer, for $5.1 billion. Hewlett-Packard has maintained that before it agreed to buy the Cambridge, England-based software company for $10 billion in 2011, Lynch and other managers gave an overly optimistic representation of its financial health.

There you go. Let me get this straight. HP decided to buy something. That something triggered much work by HP executives and its consultants. The something became Autonomy. More analyses and conversations ensued.

HP believes that the sellers (Dr. Mike Lynch and his senior managers) did the Norman Vincent Peale thing to sway the $100 billion corporation. You remember. The Power of Positive Thinking. I assume Dr. Lynch and his team did the normal sales pitch complete with diagrams, buzzwords, and lots of upbeat comments about the market opportunity, the IDOL and DRE technology, and the future for smart software. Most of the pitches I have heard in my 50 year business career are more marketing than verifiable facts. Buyers want to buy. Sellers want to sell. Sellers usually have a tough time forcing a buyer to buy unless the situation takes place in a Netflix entertainment experience.

false advertising

A happy quack to http://www.owned.com/search/advertising-fail/

The article points out:

The U.K.’s Serious Fraud Office in January dropped its probe into the takeover after finding “insufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction,” the agency said at the time. The U.S. Department of Justice is still investigating, and the SFO said it gave its files to the U.S. authorities. The U.K. accounting regulator, the Financial Reporting Council, is still looking into the matter. The fight has been played out in the open on both sides of the Atlantic, with Lynch posting comments and documents on his blog and Hewlett-Packard aligning with shareholders to pursue Lynch and Hussain in court.

Okay. The SFO seems to okay with the deal. FRC is still analyzing.

The winner is going to be the law firms working on this matter. From my point of view, HP bought Autonomy. Dr. Lynch sold Autonomy. As far as I know, Dr. Lynch did not use direct or implied threats to cause the deal to occur. HP, managed by adults, made a decision.

Now, years and billions later, HP is going to “prove” that a known technology wizard with a strong marketing sense fooled a multi-billion dollar company, its handpicked team of managers and analysts, and legions of brains for hire folks.

I know Dr. Lynch is good. I did not know he was a magician and hypnotist.

Fascinating but HP has to do something in addition to splitting its company in two, ignoring the threat posed by Amazon and its ilk, the absence of management wisdom, and the uncertain market into which HP knowingly jumped.

I wonder if HP will take a look in the mirror and wonder what business message the company is sending. Auto dealers in Palo Alto are probably wondering if they are next to be sued. Every auto salesperson with whom I interacted stresses the positive. I, when the buyer, have to do my homework and understand the facts about a purchase BEFORE signing the deal and forking over hard cash.

Stephen E Arnold, March 31, 2015

Google, Safari, and the Europe Problem

March 27, 2015

I read “Google Loses Safari Web Tracking Court of Appeal Case.” The write up is less amusing than Loon balloons or contemplating the future of Glass. I assume the write up is accurate. I read:

UK consumers have been granted the right to take Google to court over revelations from 2012 that it bypassed security settings in Apple’s Safari browser to track users.

The write up included this paragraph:

Dan Tench, a partner at law firm Olswang, acting for the claimants, said that the decision was vital as it stops Google “evading or trivializing these very serious intrusions into the privacy of British consumers”.

Is this accurate?

My hunch is that Google may face additional legal scrutiny in Europe in 2015 despite this statement from the article:

Jonathan Hawker, who set up the Google Action Group regarding the Safari tracking issue, said that anyone who used an Apple iPhone, iPod or iPad between summer 2011 and spring 2012 could be entitled to compensation and should come forward. “Anyone who used the Safari browser during the relevant period now has the right to join our claim against Google. We urge all Safari users to join us in this battle to hold Google to account for its actions in the only way it understands,” he said.

My hunch is that Google’s legal eagles (maybe solicitor sparrows?) will seek additional legal processes. I do know that the GOOG is not keen on having its dreams thwarted. But I am not sure what Google understands although some people are confident in their grasp of the X Lab crowd.

Stephen E Arnold, March 27, 2015

Painting an IT Worker’s House Requires an NDA

March 27, 2015

You would not think that contractors, gardeners, painters, plumbers, and electricians would have to sign an non-disclosure agreement before working on someone’s home, but according to the New York Times it is happening all over Silicon Valley“For Tech Titans, Sharing Has Its Limits” explains how home and garden maintenance workers now have to sign NDAs for big name tech workers just like they have to with celebrities.  Most of the time, workers do not even know who they are working for or recognize the names.  This has made it hard to gather information on how many people require NDAs, but Mark Zuckerberg recently had a lawsuit that sheds some light about why they are being used.  He goes to great lengths to protect his privacy, but ironically tech people who use NDAs are the ones who make a profit off personal information disclosures.

“The lawsuit against Mr. Zuckerberg involves a different residence, 35 miles south in Palo Alto. In it, a part-time developer named Mircea Voskerician claims that he had a contract to buy a $4.8 million house adjoining Mr. Zuckerberg’s residence, and offered to sell a piece of the property to Mr. Zuckerberg. He says that in a meeting at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, he discussed a deal to sell his interest in the entire property to Mr. Zuckerberg. In exchange, he says, Mr. Zuckerberg would make introductions between him and powerful people in Silicon Valley, potential future business partners and clients. Mr. Voskerician passed up a better offer on the house, the suit contends, but Mr. Zuckerberg did not follow through on the pledge to make introductions.”

Voskerician said he only signed the NDA on as a condition to the proposed agreement, but Zuckerberg’s legal representation says the NDA means all information related to him.  On related terms, Facebook is making more privacy rules so only certain people can see user information.  It still does not change how big name IT workers want their own information kept private.  It seems sharing is good as long as it is done according to a powerful company’s definition of sharing.

Whitney Grace, March 27, 2015
Stephen E Arnold, Publisher of CyberOSINT at www.xenky.com

Legal Technology Update

March 20, 2015

It seems that the field of legal tech is making progress. Above the Law reports on “Today’s (Legal) Tech: The State of Legal Technology in 2015.” Writer Nicole Black attended the LegalTech New York conference. She highly recommends this conference to her colleagues in the legal technology field, by the way. She also came away with a list of new legal tools. Be aware, though, that e-discovery and information-governance solutions are not among them; those areas just aren’t her cup of tea. Black writes:

“Whenever I attend LegalTech, one of my goals is to learn about new and interesting legal tools that are NOT related to e-discovery or information governance, since these areas simply don’t interest me. Trying to locate vendors with offerings outside of these two categories is no small task at LegalTech. The conference organizers seem to be single-mindedly focused on these subjects and you can’t walk more than two feet in the Exhibit Hall without tripping over a booth offering software related to either topic.

“But, I doggedly sifted through the slew of emails I received from vendors until I found a few with products that interested me. As is the case every year, a theme seems to emerge after I’ve met with the various vendors, and this year it was documents, documents, and more documents.”

Black goes on to list several vendors of interest. She met with three offering litigation-prep document management, Factbox, Allegory, and Opus 2 Magnum. Each works a little differently from the others, she notes. Then there’s Redact Assistant, which simplifies the removal of sensitive content; Plainlegal, which supplies document automation for IP filings; and Brainloop, which offers virtual data rooms to enhance collaboration. The final entry, Box, is a general online-document storage and collaboration tool that has been making inroads into the legal space.

Black wraps up her article with a description of swag found at the conference, but I’ll let you navigate to the article for those card-game-related details. It sounds like the conference was a lot of fun.

Cynthia Murrell, March 19, 2015

Stephen E Arnold, Publisher of CyberOSINT at www.xenky.com

HP Autonomy: HP Shareholder Deal

March 14, 2015

I am no legal eagle. I did find “US Judge Approves HP Shareholder Deal over Autonomy Acquisition” interesting. (If the news story disappears, well, that’s life in the world of real news.)

The story reports:

Hewlett-Packard Co won preliminary approval from a U.S. judge to settle shareholder litigation on Friday involving the information technology company’s botched acquisition of Autonomy Plc. The ruling, from U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer in San Francisco, comes after HP failed to win approval of two previous proposed deals. Breyer had written that the last deal may not have been fair for shareholders because it could have forced them to give up claims beyond the Autonomy deal.

The battle over HP’s decision to purchase Autonomy continues. I assume the lawyers representing the parties to this matter are thinking about appeals. Will billing cross their minds?

Stephen E Arnold, March 14, 2015

Algorithms: Be Careful with Those College Math Notes

March 13, 2015

I read “Algorithmia Launches With More Than 800 Algorithms On Its Marketplace.” With the world embracing smart software, the monetization of math is no surprise. I would point out that one of my math books is an early version of Numerical Recipes: The Art of Scientific Computing. the book contains more than 400 numerical routines. The book includes useful explanations of MCMC, linear programming, and Delaunay triangulation, and more.

I also have Advanced Math for Beginners, a Russian textbook. There are other math books on my shelves including a copy of Zbigniew Michalewicz’s Genetic Algorithms + Data Structures = Evolution Programs. My assumption is that I could study the examples in these and other books, create a program, and move forward with my really smart software application. Maybe not? I thought. What happens if a I use an algorithm for sale on Algorithmia which I ingested from one of these textbooks? Yikes. Jail time?  A fine? A Google Oracle Java style dust up? Could Algorithmia take legal action against a company dependent on methods taught in college classes?

Stephen E Arnold, March 13, 2015

Google: Circling the Semi Virtual Wagons

February 26, 2015

Google has an interesting track record with nation states, supra national agencies, and regulators.

Google has a new Euro boss, Matt Brittin. According to “Here’s Everything We Know about Google’s new European Boss Matt Brittin,” he is tall and:

Born in 1968 in Walton-on-Thames in Surrey, England, he was educated at Hampton School and Robinson College before leaving home to study at Cambridge University, where he earned a Master of Arts in Land Economy and Geography.

Also, according to “Google Shakes Up European Units in Face of Tougher Rules,” the GOOG is following in Yahoo’s footsteps  by trying to get organized in Europe. You may have to pay to access the Financial Times’ article.

Net net: After 15 or so years in business, the lads in Mountain View are circling their virtual wagons in EC land.

Will the shift be enough to satisfy the regulators presiding over a somewhat shaky financial and political tie up? My hunch is that regulators will regulate. Perhaps some juicy penalties or taxation fast dancing will be announced.

Exciting for Google which is facing push back about its real estate dreams in Mountain View, annoyances in China, and the on going European saber rattling.

Google will have to stand tall. The new GOOG Euro boss should be able to see over the well coiffed heads of the regulators.

Stephen E Arnold, February 26, 2015

Hewlett Packard and Autonomy: A Fourth Try for Clear Thinking

February 8, 2015

The weekend approacheth. Another legal action takes place. The article “Former Autonomy CFOI Tries Again to Halt HP Shareholder Settlement” does a good job of explaining why Sushovan Hussain (Autonomy’s former CFO) wants to put the brakes on HP’s settlement of a shareholder lawsuit. The legal maneuverings are too complex for me.

According to the article:

The shareholders accused HP of issuing misleading statements about the financial health of Autonomy. Terms of the early settlement deal, since rejected by U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer, proposed not only to drop claims against HP, its executives and directors including CEO Meg Whitman, and but also for law firms representing the shareholders to assist HP with any criminal charges that might result against former Autonomy execs including Hussain and the company’s former CEO Mike Lynch. HP is on its fourth attempt to obtain approval from the judge for a settlement. The latest proposal includes terms that would basically bar anyone from suing HP over the Autonomy deal, a move which Hussain says amounts to a legal overreach and strips him of his legal rights.

Several thoughts crossed my mind:

First, HP is investing considerable time, money, and effort in going after Autonomy. But HP bought Autonomy and presumably reviewed the deal before forking over $11 billion.

Second, the after purchase remorse seemed to affect HP management in a surprising way; to wit, HP did not know what it purchased. Isn’t HP management’s job to know what it buys?

Third, with each passing month, HP is lagging farther and farther behind the companies that have leapfrogged Autonomy’s late 1990s technology. Will it be too late for HP to generate the billions in revenue from Autonomy’s technology to recover their investment and generate a return for HP stakeholders?

I find this soap opera lacking the logic of the Tela Novela Entre el amor y el odio. I know whom I would nominate as el odio.

Stephen E Arnold, February 8, 2015

HP: Serious Fraud Office Served Up Cold Bangers and Beans

January 19, 2015

I assume that the New York Times has this story straight: “British Fraud Office Ends HP-Autonomy Inquiry.” If you have to pay to access the source or it disappears, don’t hassle me.

Here’s the paragraph about Hewlett Packard’s decision to pay big buck billions to purchase Autonomy:

“In respect of some aspects of the allegations, the S.F.O. has concluded that, on the information available to it, there is insufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction,” the British authorities said in a statement on Monday.

HP will pump up in the Palo Alto gym and hit the US courts. But the decision is probably about as appetizing as an expense plate of bangers and beans at a Millwall football match.

HP hopes for a billion dollar burger from the US courts. The only question in my mind is, “Didn’t HP make the decision to buy Autonomy.”

Sir Mike Lynch is a compelling individual, but not even his skills can convince a printer ink company to spend $11 billion for mid 1990s’ technology. Perhaps HP would like to purchase DarkTrace which seems to be shaping up into another winner.

Stephen E Arnold, January 19, 2015

Love Open Source? Good News and News

January 13, 2015

I read “Top 10 FOSS Legal Developments of 2014.” A legal eagle generated the listicle. Despite my skepticism for birds of this feather, the list has some good news and—well, to put it positively—news for the open source movement.

The good news is that folks from courts to government agencies are paying attention to free and open source software. The “news” news is that use of open source “by commercial companies expands.” The write up states:

We have discussed in the past how many large companies are using FOSS as an explicit strategy to build their software. Jim Zemlin, Executive Director of the Linux Foundation, has described this strategic use of FOSS as external “research and development.” His conclusions are supported by Gartner who noted that “the top tech companies are still spending tens of billions of dollars on software research and development, the smart ones are leveraging open source for 80 percent of the code and spending their money on the remaining 20 percent, which represents their program’s ‘special sauce.’” The scope of this trend was emphasized by Microsoft’s announcement that it was “open sourcing” the .NET software framework (this software is used by millions of developers to build and operate websites and other large online applications).

The other item of “news” news is that the dust up with regard to Google and Java for Android continues. Who wants to risk a similar patent action? The answer to that question will help inform your assessment of the “news”.

I interpreted the information to suggest that open source is increasingly commercial. Good news or just news?

Stephen E Arnold, January 14, 2015

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