Mike Lynch is trying to turn the tables on Meg Whitman.
He believes that the chief executive of Hewlett-Packard has underestimated his appetite for a fight that, given the seriousness of the allegations being made by Whitman, is far from the usual sort of corporate spat that erupts from time to time.
This has all the hallmarks of turning into mortal combat, which means it's doubtful both can survive to live another day in the corporate world. One of them will come off worse, fatally so for their reputation and careers, and both are determined it's not going to be them. Of course, in slugging it out it's also possible that both will suffer wounds from which they never recover.
The lunge from Lynch on Friday was to insist that far from him being the one with awkward questions to answer it's Whitman who is ultimately going to be the boss under the spotlight.
Whitman may have the corporate power house of HP lawyers behind her (although I hope it's a different bunch of HP lawyers than the ones who signed off the company's disastrous acquisition of Autonomy in the first place) but Lynch has all the money and pure aggression he needs to take on HP, a company that has regularly proved in recent years to be one of America's worst.
Having launched a shock and awe attack on Tuesday against Lynch (without actually naming him), Whitman runs the risk that this will be just one more HP management decision that proves unwise, imprudent and disproportionate a bit like buying Autonomy in the first place.
Central to Lynch's retaliation is a question over what he identifies from HP's admittedly vague accusations as $100m of disputed annual revenues. How you get from that number to a write-down of $5.8bn doesn't add up, according to Lynch. Listening to him this is either a fairly arcane debate about differences in US and UK accounting standards or a fairly clumsy attempt by HP to shift the blame for Autonomy's rapid decline since it came under its ownership.
The reality may well lie somewhere in between. While an independent quoted company in the FTSE 100 (FTSE Index: EO100.FGI - news) , Autonomy came under consistent criticism from some analysts that its accounts did not give a completely accurate picture of the company's performance, although its own shareholders and auditors were not rattled.
At the same time HP has had a disastrous track record both in terms of acquisitions, which have been written down in value one after another, and in executing its own strategy, which has flip-flopped from one thing to another.
Bring the two together and you have a dangerous cocktail.
The real crime in all of this is probably the decision by Whitman's now humbled predecessor, Leo Apotheker, to buy Autonomy for what even Lynch yesterday admitted was a "full price". Since then things have gone from bad to worse, with Autonomy staff leaving in droves to escape the Kafkaesque nightmare of HP's bureaucracy.
They say most mergers and acquisitions are value-destroying as buyers rarely understand fully what they're getting and there's no reason to believe this one was any different other than being a more egregious example than most that have gone before.
= Cracks still showing in system of regulation =
Just as Vince Cable likes to play to the gallery, his Coalition colleague Michael Fallon is just as capable of doing the same thing. Fallon's remark on Thursday night that Cable "slips his electronic tag occasionally" went down well at the Institute of Directors on Pall Mall. But his other remarks, including that the Coalition should be in the business of government, not the government of business struck a more meaningful chord.
As did his observation that "A huge part of the financial crisis was the failure of regulation". This echoes recent statements from both the Prime Minister and the Chancellor that have been overtly supportive of banks. The regulators' failings have been largely forgotten or brushed over. They don't make profits or pay bonuses (on the whole) so have less political value. But in forgetting their failings we are doomed to repeat them. Already I can see how the gaps left by the tripartite system could still be repeated under the newly empowered Bank of England.
This regulatory system will have the Treasury, Financial Policy Committee, Prudential Regulatory Authority and the Financial Conduct Authority all doing their own thing and are far from certain to be consistent. The problems continue.