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Hewlett-Packard Stock Drop Suit

This case was originally dismissed by the district court, and appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. The suit claims that Hewlett Packard (HP) 401(k) Savings Plan fiduciaries breached their duties by allowing the Plan and its participants ‘“to purchase and hold HP common stock when the stock was artificially inflated and was an imprudent investment for the Plan.”’ The plaintiffs had claimed that HP’s acquisition of Autonomy, a British software maker, was completed without appropriate due diligence. Plaintiffs also alleged that post-acquisition, HP did in fact realize that Autonomy’s accounting practices inflated the company’s revenues, and that it overpaid for the purchase of the company. Yet, HP failed to disclose these realizations however. HP stock fell 12% post acquisition. The plaintiffs argued that HP should have prevented the Plan from making new investments in HP common stock and/or made public disclosures concerning HP stock risks. The court ruled that “a prudent fiduciary in the same circumstances could view the plaintiffs course of action as causing more harm than good without first conducting a proper investigation.” Therefore, the plaintiffs failed to prove a breach of duty of prudence, and the decision of the lower court favoring the defendant was upheld.