November 25, 2015 / 11:27 PM / 2 years ago

UPDATE 1-Tesco in $12 mln U.S. settlement over accounting scandal

3 Min Read

(Adds details from settlement, case citation, byline)

By Jonathan Stempel

NEW YORK, Nov 25 (Reuters) - Tesco Plc has agreed to pay $12 million to settle a U.S. shareholder lawsuit claiming that accounting irregularities inflated the share price of Britain's largest retailer.

The all-cash settlement was disclosed in filings on Wednesday in the U.S. District Court in Manhattan, and requires court approval.

Tesco denied wrongdoing in agreeing to settle, court papers show.

The company was not immediately available after business hours for comment. George Conway, a U.S. lawyer representing Tesco, declined to comment.

Tesco was sued after revealing in September 2014 that it had overstated first-half profit by 250 million pounds ($378 million) because it incorrectly booked payments from suppliers.

That led to the price of Tesco's American depositary shares falling 15 percent on the next trading day. Tesco later raised the estimated overstatement to 263 million pounds.

The scandal led to the departure of several top executives, probes by Britain's Serious Fraud Office and other regulators, and the replacement of Tesco's longtime auditor.

Wednesday's settlement covers investors led by Stephen Klug, and who sought class-action status on behalf of those who acquired Tesco's American depositary shares and "F-shares" between April 18, 2012 and Sept. 22, 2014, court papers show.

The lawsuit claimed that Tesco and top executives misled investors into believing the company was performing well, when it was instead reporting profit incorrectly, taking too long to recognize costs, and overstating inventory.

Kim Miller, a partner at Kahn Swick & Foti representing Klug, in a court filing called the settlement an "outstanding recovery" given the risks of continued litigation.

The average recovery will be 37 cents per American depositary share and 11 cents per F-share before deducting fees and expenses, court papers show.

Kahn Swick & Foti plan to seek legal fees of up to 30 percent of the gross settlement fund, the papers show.

The case is In re: Tesco PLC Securities Litigation, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 14-08495. (Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Chris Reese, Bernard Orr)

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