September 29, 2017 / 12:48 PM / a year ago

Former Tesco executives pressured staff "to cook books", court told

LONDON, Sept 29 (Reuters) - Three former Tesco executives abused their positions of trust to encourage the manipulation of profit figures, lied to auditors and misled the stock market, prosecutors told a London court on Friday.

The senior executives were “cooking the books” to secure huge compensation packages, and bullying subordinates into compliance, lead prosecutor Sasha Wass told London’s Southwark Crown Court.

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, all deny charges of fraud and false accounting.

“The three defendants on trial are not the foot soldiers,” she said.

“The defendants in this case are the generals in a position of trust and had huge compensation packages to safeguard the financial health of Tesco.”

She said the three encouraged the manipulation of profit figures and “pressured others working under their control to conduct themselves in such a way that the stock market was ultimately misled”.

The case stems from a 250 million pound ($334 million) over-statement of a Tesco profit forecast in 2014, mainly due to booking commercial deals with suppliers too early.

Tesco suspended eight senior members of staff including Bush, Rogberg and Scouler as its shares tumbled and it was plunged into the worst crisis in its near 100-year history. ($1 = 0.7478 pounds) (Reporting by James Davey; Writing by Paul Sandle; Editing by Keith Weir)

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