Tesco faces new legal action over accounting scandal

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's biggest retailer Tesco PLC TSCO.L is facing a new claim for damages from an investor about its 2014 profit overstatement, the company said on Tuesday.

A company logo is pictured outside a Tesco supermarket in Altrincham northern England, April 16, 2016. REUTERS/Phil Noble/File Photo

A spokesman for the supermarket group said it was aware of a claim filed by Manning & Napier, the U.S. fund manager, and would be filing a defence shortly.

Manning & Napier declined to comment. However, the Financial Times reported that the fund manager said it suffered losses of $212 million because of Tesco’s accounting irregularities.

Tesco is already defending a more than 100 million pounds claim from a group of 125 institutional investors that was filed last October.

Tesco issued a statement to the Stock Exchange on Sept. 22,2014, saying that during its final preparations for an interim results announcement it had identified a 250 million pound overstatement of first-half profit, mainly because it booked commercial deals with suppliers too early.

The discovery led to the suspension of eight senior members of staff, sent Tesco’s shares tumbling and plunged the company into the worst crisis in its near 100-year history.

Three former senior executives of Tesco accused of fraud and false accounting are due to stand trial in September.

Christopher Bush, who was managing director of Tesco UK, Carl Rogberg, who was UK finance director, and John Scouler, who was UK food commercial director, were charged by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) last September with one count of fraud by abuse of position and one count of false accounting.

Late last year it emerged that Philip Clarke, the former chief executive of Tesco and Kevin Grace, its former group commercial director, would not face charges.

The SFO’s more than two-year-long investigation into Tesco remains active.

The profit overstatement, identified three weeks after Dave Lewis took over as CEO from Clarke, was later raised to 263 million pounds.

In November 2015 Tesco agreed to pay $12 million to settle a U.S. shareholder lawsuit. The retailer denied wrongdoing in agreeing to settle.

Reporting by James Davey; editing by Grant McCool