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At the Friday night dump…

images9thumbnail.jpegLate on Friday, right around the time I was beginning what turned into a 24-hour quest to get home from Phoenix via US Air (LCC), Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) filed its third quarter Q, which had this new (and interesting) disclosure about the U.S. Department of Justice:

“On April 12, 2007, the U.S. Department of Justice intervened in the qui tam action and filed a complaint against HP and four other companies on behalf of the United States containing more specific allegations that HP violated the False Claims Act and the Anti-Kickback Act of 1986 by providing millions of dollars in kickbacks to its alliance partners, including “influencer fees” and “new business opportunity rebates.” The U.S. complaint further alleges more specifically that HP violated the False Claims Act and the Anti-Kickback Act, breached its federal government contracts, induced the federal government to make payments to HP to which HP was not entitled to receive under those contracts, and was unjustly enriched by expressly or impliedly making false statements, records or certifications to the federal government that it complied with and would continue to comply with the Anti-Kickback Act and by submitting claims to the government that allegedly were inflated because they included the amounts of the influencer fees and new business opportunity rebates. The U.S. complaint seeks treble damages plus civil penalties in connection with the alleged violations of the False Claims Act, double damages plus civil penalties in connection with the alleged violations of the Anti-Kickback Act and disgorgement of profits earned in connection with the breach of contract and unjust enrichment claims.”

Besides the claim at hand, what’s odd is the the Justice Department issued this release on April 19 (picked up by Marketwatch), but that it took another seven weeks for any mention of the issue to find its way into HP’s SEC filings. The Justice Department release also names Sun Microsystems (SUNW) and Accenture (ACN). Of the three, Sun was the first to disclose any hint of the issue back in the Q it filed on Feb. 9. Investors in Accenture appear to be still waiting for that disclosure, based on a quick skim of their filings.

Now, I’ve been getting some feedback from readers — mostly securities lawyers — saying that late Friday filings aren’t always nefarious. That sometimes they’re simply due to all of the pieces coming together late in the day. Agreed. But just because something isn’t nefarious doesn’t mean that it wasn’t specifically designed to avoid any attention. How else to explain an April 19 press release that doesn’t find its way to HP investors until late on June 8?

What’s also interesting here is that just two weeks ago (May 23), the SEC slapped HP for failing to disclose in an 8K the reasons behind director Thomas Perkin’s resignation, which had to do with HP’s infamous leak investigation.

As for me, I finally made it back to JFK at 11 pm on Saturday night — exactly 24 hours after I was supposed to land in Newark. After reading this story two weeks ago about USAir’s over-booking problems in Phoenix, I knew I was in for a special experience. I just didn’t realize how much time it was going to take me — and how everything US Air employees promised to ease my inconvenience was just a lot of hot air.