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UK tech founder Mike Lynch’s lawyers seek acquittal at US fraud trial


By Jody Godoy and Abhirup Roy

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Mike Lynch’s lawyers on Monday portrayed the British tech pioneer as a savvy entrepreneur while prosecutors in a San Francisco court labeled him a greedy fraudster, and jurors will soon weigh allegations that Lynch defrauded Hewlett-Packard in its $11 billion acquisition of his software company.

The 2011 deal was one of the biggest British tech deals at the time, but quickly went sour. HP wrote down Autonomy’s value by $8.8 billion within a year of the acquisition.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Leach told jurors in closing arguments that they should have no reasonable doubt there was fraud at Autonomy, and that Lynch directed it.

The federal prosecutor urged jurors to follow the money, saying Lynch had made 500 million pounds ($640 million) from the HP deal.

“Dr. Lynch had 500 million reasons to defraud HP. It tells you volumes about who was in charge and who benefited from this,” Leach said.

Lynch and former Autonomy finance executive Stephen Chamberlain face charges of fraud and conspiracy for allegedly scheming to inflate the company’s revenue starting in 2009, partly to entice a buyer.

The Cambridge University-educated entrepreneur took the stand in his own defense at the trial, denying wrongdoing and telling jurors HP botched the two companies’ integration.

Lynch’s attorney Brian Heberlig told jurors on Monday that the testimony was devastating to the prosecution’s case.

“It was more than reasonable doubt. It was truth,” he said, as jurors saw a large photo of Lynch overlaid with the descriptions of the tech founder including “smart” and “focused on the future.”

Lynch’s defense team scored a win last week when U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer threw out one count of securities fraud as not supported by the evidence. Lynch still faces one count of conspiracy and 14 counts of wire fraud.

Prosecutors say the pair padded Autonomy’s finances in several ways, including back-dated agreements and “round-trip” deals that fronted cash to customers through fake contracts.

At the trial, which began in mid-March, jurors have heard from more than 30 government witnesses including Leo Apotheker, the former HP CEO who was fired weeks after the Autonomy deal was announced.

Lynch’s legal team has argued that HP was so eager to acquire Autonomy ahead of potential competitors that it rushed through due diligence before the sale.

On the stand, Lynch said he had been focused on tech issues, and entrusted money matters and the accounting decisions at issue to Sushovan Hussain, Autonomy’s then-chief financial officer.

Hussain was separately convicted in 2018 at a trial in the same court on charges of conspiracy, wire fraud and securities fraud related to the deal with HP. He was released from U.S. prison in January after serving a five-year sentence.

Lynch was one of the UK’s leading tech entrepreneurs, drawing comparisons to Apple cofounder Steve Jobs and Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates.

The Autonomy acquisition was meant to fuel HP’s software business. Instead, it spawned a series of bitter and expensive legal battles.

HP largely won a civil lawsuit against Lynch and Hussain in London in 2022, though damages have not yet been decided. The company is seeking $4 billion.

Closing arguments in the case are expected to conclude on Tuesday before the jury begins deliberations.

(This story has been refiled to add dropped the word ‘lawyers’ in the headline)

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