The scandal came to light when a whistleblower revealed that Tesco had overstated its half-year profits by £263m; the news wiped £2bn from the retailer’s share price.
Managing director Christopher Bush, finance director Carl Rogberg, and UK food commercial director John Scouler are the first to be charged in the SFO’s nearly two-year investigation and have been ordered to appear at Westminster magistrates’ court on 22 September.
Hickman & Rose partner Ross Dixon is representing Mr Bush, while Mr Rogberg has instructed Norton Rose Fulbright partner Neil O’May. BCL Burton Copeland partner Richard Sallybanks is representing Mr Scouler.
Meanwhile, Kingsley Napley partner Stephen Parkinson is representing Tesco on the regulatory investigation. The retailer last year instructed Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer to defend it against shareholder group claims brought in the wake of the scandal, with the law firm in turn instructing a team from Kingsley Napley to advise it on the criminal law aspects of the case.
Yet to be charged
The SFO is yet to make a charging decision over more senior Tesco executives who were part of the investigation, such as the former chief executive Philip Clarke. The regulator’s decision regarding him will likely prove key for Tesco, as prosecuting the company under current UK corporate liability laws will be easier if there is evidence to charge him.
Tesco is understood to be a candidate for a deferred prosecution agreement with the SFO and has co-operated with the investigation.