'Like the civil service of a medium-sized country': Tesco's huge management team made it hard to detect financial trouble, lawyers say

  • Tesco’s former UK finance director Carl Rogberg is one of three former Tesco executives standing trial for fraud in relation to their alleged involvement in overstating the firm’s profits in 2014.
  • Lawyers defending Rogberg say the UK finance operation was like the “civil service of a medium-sized country,” meaning Rogberg was not shown key documents linked to the firm’s brewing troubles.

LONDON – A court heard the sheer size of Tesco’s UK finance operation meant former finance director Carl Rogberg was not aware of key documents that led to Tesco announcing it had overstated its profits by nearly £250 million in 2014.

Rogberg is one of three former Tesco executives standing trial for fraud in relation to their alleged involvement in overstating the firm’s profits. All three deny guilt.

Defending Rogberg, barrister Nicholas Purnell told the jury at Southwark Crown Court that Rogberg as UK finance director in 2014 had been in charge of 200 to 300 people who were responsible for preparing 2,860 individual reports every month, comparing the operation to the “civil service of a medium-sized country.”

Purnell also said that Tesco placed “various different [UK management] functions in various different geographical areas,” meaning his own office was in a completely different location to the accounting department’s, and that he had not been shown key documents or attended meetings relevant to the firm’s accounting troubles.

Purnell also said that, according to evidence given during the prosecution’s case, Rogberg had been “outside the circle of knowledge” of the existence of the “legacy paper,” a bombshell report which ultimately led to Tesco’s board discovering it had overstated profits.

The jury previously heard from Amit Soni, the senior Tesco accountant who secretly prepared the paper, that he had not told colleagues including Rogberg about the report because it would be a “distraction.”

Rogberg told the jury that he had little control over directors beneath him who performed more specific roles, meeting with them once a week as a team, and once every week or fortnight individually.


‘I don’t want to go to jail for this’: Fear and tension at Tesco before £250 million accounting scandal broke

Former Tesco UK managing director Christopher Bush, former UK finance director Carl Rogberg, and former food commercial director John Scouler are all charged with fraud by false accounting and of fraud by abuse of position.

The trio were formally charged by the Senior Fraud Office last year. Lawyers acting for the trio have already pleaded not guilty.

The trial, which started on September 29, is expected to last beyond December.

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