HP's Autonomy deal, debacles many

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SummaryWhen Hewlett Packard acquired Autonomy last year for $11.1 billion, some 15 different financial, legal and accounting firms were involved in the transaction

for their long relationships with the companies, in a little-scrutinized Wall Street practice of crediting -- and paying – investment banks that actually have little do with the deal.

LAWSUITS, REPUTATIONS AT STAKE

Plaintiffs lawyers said they were taking calls from investors about HP on Tuesday. Darren Robbins, a San Diego-based plaintiff lawyer who represents shareholders, said the tech icon appears to have spent billions on a shoddy company without undertaking the proper due diligence, and thus misrepresented its finances to investors."I think they have serious troubles," he said.But plaintiff lawyers may have difficulty bringing so-called derivative lawsuits against professional services firms, said Brian Quinn, an M&A professor at Boston College Law School. In those cases, plaintiff lawyers can sue third parties, such as auditors, on behalf of HP -- but they must convince a judge that HP's board is unfit to pursue those claims itself. In this

situation, though, HP's board disclosed the alleged fraud itself, Quinn said.Even if the bankers and lawyers escape any legal problems, they could suffer a reputational hit. The scrutiny could be particularly unwelcome for Perella Weinberg: the firm advised

Japanese camera maker Olympus' acquisition of British Gyrus -- a transaction that prompted investigations in the United States, United Kingdom and Japan into fees and payments made by Olympus.Olympus had hired Perella to execute the transaction, which according to Thomson Reuters M&A database resulted in record

bankers' fee of $687 million. Perella was not implicated in the matter.Meanwhile, the most controversial banker involved in the HP-Autonomy deal, Frank Quattrone of Qatalyst, represented Autonomy and played a key role in getting HP to pay a high

price.A star investment banker in the 1990s, Quattrone had worked at Morgan Stanley, Deutsche Bank and Credit Suisse, and helped arrange some of the biggest tech initial public offerings of the era, including Amazon.com Inc and Cisco Systems Inc.But his time at the top of Silicon Valley was curtailed by charges that he blocked an investigation into IPO kickbacks. After two trials failed to resolve his case, he ultimately reached a deal with prosecutors.His return to the Silicon Valley M&A scene has impressed many in the tech world."His reputation is at an all-time high right now," said Dan Scheinman, the former head of mergers and acquisitions at Cisco who has worked with Quattrone on several deals.Analysts almost uniformly deemed the $11.1 billion he got HP to pay for Autonomy as overly rich -- a

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