THE Church Commissioners have received a share of a £193-million settlement payout by the supermarket giant Tesco to investors who sued for losses after an accountancy scandal in 2014.
Several institutional shareholders sued Tesco after more than £2 billion was wiped off its market valuation. A whistleblower revealed that Tesco’s half-year profits had been artificially inflated by £250 million; and the total error later increased to £326 million.
As a result, the company’s annual profits for the year were halved. Four senior executives were suspended, the company called in a team of forensic accountants to check its books, and the Serious Fraud Office launched a criminal investigation.
Tesco subsequently faced a string of class-action suits from shareholders seeking compensation for the fall in share price; they claimed that the loss that they had suffered was the result of Tesco’s inaccurate disclosures. They included Norges Bank, the Norwegian sovereign wealth fund, several pension funds, and the Church Commissioners.
Details of the out-of-court settlement with two legal firms representing shareholders were disclosed in Tesco’s half-year results, published last week. The sum paid out exceeded the £129 million that the retailer agreed to pay as part of a deferred-prosecution agreement with the Serious Fraud Office. Three Tesco executives were prosecuted by the Serious Fraud Office, but were acquitted of all charges in 2019.
This week, the Commissioners declined to discuss the settlement.