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Darktrace chief buys shares after company exec exposed as part of ‘clique’ in Autonomy fraud

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Nicole Eagon was involved in Mark Lynch's sale of Autonomy - David Paul Morris/Bloomberg
Nicole Eagon was involved in Mark Lynch's sale of Autonomy - David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

The boss of Darktrace bought £100,000 of shares in the company after a judge named a serving executive as a member of a 'clique' in one of Britain’s biggest-ever corporate frauds, wiping £250m off its value.

Stock exchange filings showed Poppy Gustafsson made the purchase after the company’s chief strategy officer, Nicole Eagan, was named part of a "part of a clique" behind the $11bn toxic sale of software business Autonomy to Hewlett Packard a decade ago.

Ms Eagan was chief marketing officer at Autonomy when it was sold to Hewlett Packard by the entrepreneur Mike Lynch. HP later wrote its value down by $8.8bn and successfully sued Mr Lynch.

In an update to investors, Darktrace said on Thursday: “We see no link between Darktrace and the civil action against Mr Mike Lynch by Hewlett Packard or its subsidiaries.”

This week High Court judge Mr Justice Hildyard published his detailed findings against Mr Lynch in a 1,600 page ruling.

Shares in Darktrace slumped as much as 15pc to a fresh low after a judgment was handed down.

That judgment revealed Ms Eagan had been “part of a clique” acting on the Autonomy boss’s orders to fraudulently over-inflate reported revenues and make it a more attractive takeover target.

Ms Eagan was under investigation by the US Department of Justice when the High Court proceedings ended in January 2021, the judgment said.

The strategy chief abruptly withdrew from testifying in the case in mid-2019 and resigning her directorship of the firm in May 2020.

An American citizen and resident, Ms Eagan was not a named party in the civil Autonomy trial. She remains Darktrace’s chief strategy officer and is listed as part of its executive team, separate from the board, on the company website.

Darktrace continues to be dogged by its founder and executive team’s links to Autonomy, with its IPO prospectus issued last year saying: “The Group may face potential liability arising out of unlawful, and allegedly unlawful, activities in connection with the sale of Autonomy and related matters.”

US prosecutors are currently pursuing Mr Lynch’s extradition from the UK to stand criminal trial in that country over the Autonomy scandal. He maintains his innocence and has vowed to appeal against the High Court judgment.

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