Many of those who have made use of a corporate secretary provided by London Registrars, are sure to take an interest in the news of Tesco agreeing to pay a £129m fine in relation to overstating its profits in 2014.
A two-year investigation by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) led to the supermarket giant’s subsidiary, Tesco Stores Ltd, reaching what is known as a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) to avoid prosecution. The firm also agreed with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) that it would spend £85m on compensating investors.
Retailer forced to correct misleading statement
Those who bought shares or bonds between 29th August and 19th September 2014 will receive compensation on the basis that they could have been misled by a trading statement on 29th August that gave a brighter-than-justified portrayal of Tesco’s performance.
A corrected statement was issued by Tesco prior to the markets reopening on Monday 22nd September, estimating it had overstated profits by about £250m. It resulted in the retailer’s share price plummeting and led to two internal inquiries.
Nor was this the end of the story, as the overstatement then had to be revised up again, to £326m.
Tesco pledging to “restore trust”
It marks the first time the FCA has imposed a compensation order and although it has not handed down a penalty of its own, the regulator found Tesco guilty of “market abuse”.
The SFO said that the supermarket had undergone an “extensive” period of change, and had cooperated with its investigation.
Current chief executive at Tesco, Dave Lewis, commented: “Over the last two-and-a-half years, we have fully cooperated with this investigation into historic accounting practices, while at the same time fundamentally transforming our business.
“We sincerely regret the issues which occurred in 2014 and we are committed to doing everything we can to continue to restore trust in our business and brand”.
10,000 investors affected
The scandal has been described by BBC personal finance reporter Ian Pollock as amounting to “a compensation scheme for about 10,000 professional and personal investors”.
He said that to qualify for compensation – at 24.5p a share, plus interest – one was required to be a so-called ‘net purchaser’, meaning someone who bought more shares or bonds than they sold during the aforementioned period.
The compensation scheme is set to start before the end of August this year, and claimants will need to prove their eligibility by providing evidence of their purchases and sales. They will also have six months in which to lodge a claim.
Talk to London Registrars today about the contribution a corporate secretary could make to your own firm’s efforts to ensure compliance – including the preparation and filing of your organisation’s annual Confirmation Statement, formerly its Annual Return.