HP writes cheque to make shareholders go away

The maker of very expensive printer ink, HP, has written a cheque for $57 million to settle a lawsuit that accused the outfit of defrauding shareholders by suddenly walking away from its business model.

It all started after former Chief Executive Leo Apotheker decided it would be a great idea to refocus the company on business services and products.

Apotheker scrapped WebOS which was about the only thing useful that HP had obtained when it bought Palm in 2010. Apotheker paid $11.1 billion for British outfit Autonomy and talked about spinning off HP’s personal computer business. He also halted sales of the TouchPad, after just seven weeks on the market.

Shareholders were a little upset. They thought they had invested in a successful hardware company but suddenly they had put their money in a less successful version of SAP.

The lead plaintiffs include the Arkansas Teacher Retirement System; the Labourers’ Pension Fund of Central and Eastern Canada in Oakville, Ontario; the LIUNA National Pension Fund and LIUNA Staff & Affiliates Pension Fund in Washington, D.C.; and Union Asset Management Holding AG in Frankfurt, Germany.

Under the settlement, HP will deposit $57 million in used banknotes into an interest-bearing escrow account. The cash will then be divided between the plaintiffs and their laywers.

Jonathan Gardner, co-lead counsel for the class action said that he was very happy with the settlement and was glad to have achieved this recovery for the affected HP shareholders.