back to article There's that phrase again: JP Morgan CIO told Autonomy's first HP boss it was 'a shit show'

Autonomy staff were so paranoid under Mike Lynch's leadership that they feared their offices had been bugged, former head of HP Software Robert Youngjohns told London's High Court – adding that JP Morgan's CIO reportedly told him: "Autonomy is a shit show." Youngjohns – who has an impressive CV including senior stints at Sun …

  1. a_yank_lurker

    Not Sure Who This Really Helps

    Remembering there was internal, high level opposition to the deal within HP and that the software industry has a long, ignoble history of underdelivering it is not surprising there were problems. Also, were any of the key accounts contacted during the 'due diligence' phase? JPMorgan is a very big entity and if they are unhappy I would believe others are unhappy also.

    1. Notas Badoff

      Re: Not Sure Who This Really Helps

      Maybe JPMorgan thought the equipment was bugged, so wouldn't talk?

      But yeah, a valid question. I remember long hours over many weeks working to make one of my company's "reference accounts" happy over one _very_ small bit of stupidity. Merely threatening to cease scripted enthusiasm caused our sales higher-ups stutters and chest pains.

      So what were the reference accounts for Lobotomy? And _did_ anyone contact them?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not Sure Who This Really Helps

      Now this was the type of defense witness I expected HP to produce. Untarnished by the actual purchase, gets to walk in after the initial disastrous post-acquisition period where Lynch was fired and a significant number of staff had left (~10% - 150-160 out of ~1800).

      Mentions bugging with no proof. 1-0 to HP

      Mentions unhappy customer. 2-0 to HP

      Mentions payouts to customers. 3-0 to HP

      Or were all those events actually due to HP's miss-handling of the acquisition?

      That might play well in front of a jury, but this is in front of a judge, so I suspect those easy points may not count for much.

      1. Chris G

        Re: Not Sure Who This Really Helps

        All of yhe things he mentioned, demonstrate that HP did no worthwhile investigation at all.

        It seems they saw something shiny, wanted it and bought it.

        By the time this court case is done HP will be another billion down in legal fees.

    3. Commswonk

      Re: Not Sure Who This Really Helps

      Neither am I. Autonomy may or may not have been a "shit show" but asserting that it was is neither here nor there. HP have to prove that Autonomy's accounts were falsified, not that it was a shit show.

      The room may or may not have been bugged; again that is neither here nor there. An allegedly bugged room is not proof that the accounts were in any way falsified. In fact an allegedly bugged room is just that; an allegation.

      This is just flinging shit in the hope that some of it will stick.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Not Sure Who This Really Helps

        I'm seeing this as more proof that HP didn't do anything close to a proper due diligence. Pretty much every witness HP have put on the stand has basically said HP should not have touched Autonomy with a bargepole, let alone paid so far over the odds to get it.

      2. Nick Kew

        Re: Not Sure Who This Really Helps

        Read it again.

        His point wasn't about "bugging": that suspicion was merely a symptom. The issue he was concerned with was paranoia.

        The idea that pre-HP Autonomy was Not At All Nice is entirely plausible. Though as others have said, the relevance isn't clear, except in that it tends to dispel sympathy for the defendants. If the trial were for cruelty to minions it might look a lot worse for Lynch!

        1. MrEricPraline

          Re: Not Sure Who This Really Helps

          There was paranoia at HP as well. Remember that prior to his departure, Mark Turd imposed an across-the-board salary cut and layoffs were rampant. Mad King Leo rescinded the cuts (good for him) but the damage had been done. Perhaps it wasn’t as bad as Autonomy, but the paranoia at HP was real and it continues to this day at DXC.

    4. macjules

      Memo to all staff

      Following my recent, incredibly successful testimony in front of Justice Hildyard may I remind all staff that when testifying in court you must use the phrase "shit storm" as often as possible in conjunction with "Autonomy".

      Meg Whitman, CEO and Head of Under-Bus Chucking at HPE

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: Memo to all staff

        Well, yes, ha ha and all; but Whitman hasn't been CEO of HPE for over a year now.

  2. Will Godfrey Silver badge

    What a train wreck

    And that's both companies! I've been in some poor situations, but nothing remotely like this. It must be absolute hell for those workers at the bottom of the heap.

    1. ds6

      Re: What a train wreck

      The phrase you're looking for is "shit show"

      Ah, shit, I got some shit on my coat. Shit.

  3. BebopWeBop

    It's a pots and kettle convention at the High Court.

    1. theblackhand

      You mean the popcorn and keeping us entertained convention?

      1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

        It's no good...

        I've run out of popcorn.

  4. Claverhouse Silver badge

    The Photo

    Why do such people, and politicians like the recent Tory contenders, insist on squatting on babies' high chairs, wearing utterly repulsive suit and tie sets only marginally more dignified than All-American Onesies, with knees ajar as if sitting on a toadstool ?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The Photo

      The "knees ajar" bit brings back a memory of this morning's commute that I'd managed to suppress. Full on "manspreading" from the fat, be-suited businessman opposite me. The combined pressure of groinal fat and strained fabric in the gusset area .. I think I'm going to be sick.

      1. ds6

        Re: The Photo

        This just in: Poorly fitted suit on unattractive frame brings out PTSD in tram passenger, more at 11

    2. David 18

      Re: The Photo

      "with knees ajar as if sitting on a toadstool ?"

      They need to be careful doing that, that's how fairies get pregnant.

  5. Headley_Grange Silver badge


    Off topic (sorry, it's past beer o'clock), but the pic at the top of the story made me think of

    Have a good weekend everyone.

    1. Adrian 4 Silver badge

      Re: Class

      Really ?

      It made me think of

  6. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

    "... four or five separate business units with little commonality... This led to a disparate set of products, and indeed a disparate organisation, without a clear, coherent vision or a cohesive, accountable operational structure."

    Sounds like quite a good fit for HP.

  7. jake Silver badge

    If anybody cares ...

    According to my friends at the OED, who haven't actually listed it yet, the term "shit show" in this context first entered the English Language as a translation from a comment made by Monika Berberich, a member of the Red Army Faction (so-called "Baader-Meinhof Gang"), during her trial. It was in reference to her opinion of the presiding Judge's handling of the courtroom. This occurred on 22 June 1973. I believe a more correct, idiomatic (if not quite so literal) translation would be clusterfuck, and have suggested it to the OED.

    This has absolutely nothing to do with Sam Goodman and Boris Lurie's 1964 No!art installation at the Gertrude Stein Gallery consisting of 21 piles of sculpted shit made from extruded plaster. It was titled “No Sculptures/Shit Show". However, while it was obviously intended as a mockery of the more conventional modern art of the time, it was intentional as opposed to the unintentional fiasco meaning in this discussion.

    For the record, the first time I have heard it "in the wild" is during this Autonomy trial ... and I collect this kind of thing. It would be interesting to ask the folks using it how it entered their personal lexicon before the memory of the events fade ... again, I have suggested this to the OED.

    We now return you to your previously scheduled dumpster fire ...

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: If anybody cares ...

        According to the OED, "dumpster fire" seems to have first showed up in print in the newspaper Arizona Republic in 2003. It was in a review of the movie Texas Chainsaw Massacre, written by one Bill Muller. Sadly, Bill passed away in 2007, so we can't ask him where he got the phrase ... but as is almost always the case, it was probably around in the spoken language for a number of years prior to that.

        Despite it apparently being common in the sports-talk world since about 2009, I don't remember hearing it until it entered Politics with the Trump nomination ...

        As a side note, the word "dumpster" was coined for the first modern refuse collection system, where a truck picks up the box of trash and deposits the contents into an opening at the top, for transportation to the dump (tip, to you Brits), leaving the box behind for another fill. The inventor of this system was a dude named George Roby Dempster, who coined the trademark names "Dempster Dumpster" and "Dumpster" in 1935. These days, like kleenex, hoover and xerox, it is usually used as a generic noun and not capitalized. It's a good thing a guy named Dempster invented it ... Somehow "wheelie bin fire" or "skip fire" doesn't have quite the same ring to it.

        1. ds6

          Re: If anybody cares ...

          I have heard situations in poorer areas (poorer than what I have lived in the past, but close) that it is often more desirable to light the contents of your dumpster on fire than it is to pay for trash services; it could also be that the trash services no longer service that area, and so it is the only option other than taking it to the dump yourself. Burning trash (not in a dumpster, but out in an empty lot) is a commonality in American culture and many out-of-the-way places still practice it, even if they could pay for trash services instead.

          So that could be another reason why a "dumpster fire" refers to a poorly handled situation, because that's the only reason to light a dumpster on fire. A raging dumpster fire in particular might be related to the difficulty of putting out a dumpster fire, since there's usually a lot of chemicals, organic material, and other easily burned items in your average dumpster; when something is called a raging dumpster fire, it gives me a feeling of inevitability and a difficulty for preventing it from being such.

          No references, just food for thought.

          1. hoola Silver badge

            Re: If anybody cares ...

            Another one that had me baffled was the term "Gammon" relating to people who voted for Brexit. I don't understand where it came from or what it's use is. The clear point is that it is being used as an offensive word to categorise a group of people BUT because it is only recently used in that context, is not seen as offensive. If the n***** word was used people would be screaming from the rooftops.

            1. Kubla Cant

              Re: If anybody cares ...

              The reason people aren't screaming from the rooftops is that "gammon" is apparently directed at people who are older and more right-wing than you are, so it's always OK to insult them in any way you like.

              "Gammon" is a type of ham. Most people think the implication is that people so called have pink, hammy faces, though it's hard to discern the political import of such a complexion. "Gammon" is also an old word for nonsense.

              "Face like a ham" is an insult with a long history: I first saw it in an account from the 1890s of rude songs sung over the wall to Balliol by undergraduates at Trinity College, Oxford (for reasons that are obscure, there is a traditional rivalry between the two colleges).

    2. danny_0x98

      Re: If anybody cares ...

      One for your collection, in case you missed it.

      The USA television program, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, used it as the hook in one of their songs. (It, now concluded, was a 60 minute program that had the external form of a Broadway Musical meeting a Hollywood Rom-Com meeting a Network TV sit-com. It ran four seasons, just over 60 episodes.)

      In Season 2 Ep 4 about 1:50. It was on a USA broadcast network, so the phrase was partially bleeped. It's a nice ballad. Written by Adam Schlesinger, Rachel Bloom & Jack Dolgen. That would have aired first in Fall 2016. The show was never widely popular, but its fans are very devoted.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: If anybody cares ...

        I didn't miss it, I just don't care. All I'm interested in in this context is the origin of the word/phrase.

    3. Snowy Silver badge

      Re: If anybody cares ...

      Maybe he plays WoW and watchs "The Weekly Reset," by Taliesin and Evitel, they always "Shit show" somewhere in the video.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Semi-Psychotic Autocratic Bosses, Paranoid Employees, Unhappy Customers

    Another episode of XYZ (A) company being screwed by the Peter Principle

  9. Trollslayer

    Not the first time

    I worked for a major semiconductor manufacturer that manufactures networking and set top box devices who decided to buy the TV device division from A Terribly Interesting company.

    The problem is this was all done at a senior level and it turned out business wasn't as good as it appeared to be - bye bye to over $100 million.

    Sometimes you need boot son the ground to see if things are as they appear.

  10. GrapeBunch
    Paris Hilton

    Pshow in the City.

    If it was a sshow before the purchase, HP didn't do its homework. If it was a sshow during the purchase, well of course acquisitions produce nervousness. If it was a sshow after the purchase, that is HP's fault, because they were in charge. In all cases, sshowing does not advance HP's case.

    Paris would understand.

  11. david 136

    Some might suggest that more diligence was due by the purchasers, and they rather failed to do it properly.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Show Me The Code

    Autonomy wouldn't be the first - and it certainly will not be the last - software company to sell vaporware. I remember back in the '90s asking sales reps from SAP to show me not whole the code - but even a single line of code - when they were trying to sell my CIO a module we knew simply didn't exist .....

  13. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse

    All of this noise is just a diversion...

    Dear HP... pleeeeease just show us where the fraud occurred. It's what you are claiming in your suit and it's all that really matters. We've all been waiting 5 - 6 weeks now and I'm not sure any of us has really seen any evidence that puts your $8bn cash write off down to it. Anytime soon will do, but not too soon eh as I'm still enjoying watching you make arses of yourselves.


    1. Rameses Niblick the Third Kerplunk Kerplunk Whoops Where's My Thribble?

      Re: All of this noise is just a diversion...

      It's how these things are done in America now. Evidence? we don't need no stinking evidence! We can shout! A lot! And the more and longer we shout, the more bored and disinterested everyone gets until they wonder why they were listening in the first place and just give up and agree with us!

      See also: The US vs. Huawei - "We know you're spying 'cos we have evidence, but no-one else is allowed to see it"

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I was scheduled to interview with Autonomy about a year before the acquisition. The recruiter gave me the address of their old offices which were the other side of NYC from their new digs (apparently they had moved many months earlier). When I tried to call her, she was unavailable and when I called the contact I was supposed to be interviewing with, to let him know I was going to be late having been sent to the wrong place, the receptionist told me he was no longer with the company.

    Those all added up to too many red flags for me and I emailed to let them know I wouldn't be attending the interview - and I never received any apology or follow up from any of the people involved in the process. I consider all of that to be a lucky escape

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