BOB’S YER UNCLE: TESCO COO SOLD 50,000 SHARES 8 DAYS PRIOR TO PROFIT WARNING

And two other fat cats sold bigtime just before the December statement

There were calls last night for the FSA (or whatever succeeds it) to tighten up the rules on share sales, after Tesco’s Chief Operating Officer, Noel “Bob” Robbins (right) the UK chief operating officer, was discovered to have sold 50,000 shares on January 4 – a week before the company’s poor Christmas sales results stunned the market, knocking around 16% off the share price. Mr Robbins, whose net selling gain was £200,000, would only have made £166,000 had he waited until after the results announcement.

Bob (above) kitted out in full non-awareness parade uniform

The rules of officers of plc companies state they ‘should not buy or sell shares in their company while in possession of unpublished, price-sensitive information’. Somewhat incredibly, Tesco is arguing this morning that ‘Bob’ was not in possession such data. Their spin department this morning claimed, ‘We are confident that Bob was not in possession of any price-sensitive information at the time that the sale was approved.’

Are they kidding? Bob is the Chief Operating Officer of a retail company. If he didn’t have the running national till return totals before Christmas Day, then an awful lot of people should be fired for not telling him. Then he should be fired for not asking.

Over the last year, we have become used to utterly unbelievable bollocks being put out by The Greedy in defence of the indefensible.

But Tesco insists that it and Mr Robbins  have broken no rules, and unfortunately they may be right: how easy it would be to simply change the rules to say that no officer can trade in the shares two months either side of a results announcement – and any officer found to have sold within a month before a profits warning should be ordered to sell the shares back at the post-warning price.

Bob’s little harvest came in just three days before the end of Tesco Christmas trading. Supermarket sales are Christmas biased, but (a) that’s just under 1% of total days in a year and (b) I can tell you from personal experience that the general trend is nearly always clear by December 22nd – depending on what day Christmas itself lands on.

Only three days ago, Tesco CEO Philip Clarke blamed “longstanding business issues” as a major factor in the seasonal sales performance. If Robbins didn’t know about that, why not?

And the same question should be asked of Messrs Andrew Higginson, Group Strategy director, who dumped a massive £1.41m of shares in November at 403.34p; and  Finance Director Laurie McIlwee, who sold £545,000-worth in October at 411.51p.

There then followed an interim management statement on December 8. Hmm. Strategy….Financial….you know, it’s just possible they were aware of a thing or too as well – you never know. Nah, perish the thought.

Anyway, I think Robbins should resign.

The Slog has been running a concerted campaign to clean up Tesco’s act on misleading pack and price combinations. The campaign will continue at all levels.

You can read the Daily Dishonesty at @SlogTesco on Twitter.

33 thoughts on “BOB’S YER UNCLE: TESCO COO SOLD 50,000 SHARES 8 DAYS PRIOR TO PROFIT WARNING

  1. Well don’t expect any action from the FSA in a hurry…

    Though of course this mans actions leave a nastry taste in the mouth.

    However if you have (as we do) ‘light touch regulation’ for the private sector, then don’t be surprised when this sort of thing happens.

    However if Mr Robbins had any scruples, then we would not be discussing this…

  2. Well …. maybe that’s Tesco’s problem, he’s not looking at the numbers! But seriously, there will certainly be weekly updates and possibly daily, with forecast to actual analyses and constant updating of the year end outcome. Someone would have been making very loud noises. They are kidding nobody. I dare the FSA to take a close look (but they won’t, it’s not their style to do anything).

  3. Get above a certain level in the UK hierarchy…..from Westminster to Wimbledon.
    Ditch the integrity, every one for themselves, face in the trough.
    It’s blatantly rampantly exposed, but nothing changes.

  4. I would wager that “Bob” has access to real time numbers for all the stores and the company as a whole at the touch of a button.

    “Over the last year, we have become used to utterly unbelievable bollocks being put out by The Greedy in defence of the indefensible.”

    This sums it up succinctly. It’s shows just how much contempt these tossers have for us that they think they can just lie through their f**king teeth and they think we’ll swallow it. All with a straight face.

    Keep going on the Tesco campaign John. This is something that has to be done and sod the detractors. I intend to do much more to help when I get home and have the time. You can be an excellent retailer without resorting to the shockingly unethical behaviour of Tesco. I for one am fully with you on this.

  5. John,
    I am only going to state that I have read this post and add no further comment, for fear of being blacklisted from this site!
    GGggggrrrrrr

  6. If you work for Tesco you didn’t necessarily need to be on the board of directors to see what was coming. Even us lowly shelf stackers at shop floor level could see that our company was heading for a dismal Christmas. One of the company’s problems — apart from the fact that CEO Philip Clarke is no Terry Leahey (the former CEO) — Tesco have focused and invested too much on their overseas operations — something done under Leahey’s stewardship. If my store is anything to go by we have been virtually run into the ground with poor management and no investment in staff. Instead, the shrinkage in staff means there have not been enough to get stock onto the shelves, leaving a less than satisfactory shopping experience for our customers. Tesco must now refocus on the British operation and invest in extra staff. I am therefore not surprised that Noel “Bob” Robbins had the foresight to dump shares before they fell.

  7. It will be very interesting for me to see where this story goes and how much coverage it gets in the MSM. It’s a bloody scandal. This is a story that should be in the news. Another example of some corrupt, greedy bastard at the top who thinks he can do what he wants, break the rules, then spin us a load of blatant bollocks and get away with it. Bet he doesn’t have to resign.
    Yet for the past week all it seems to me I’ve heard about on the news is the long running “knocker shocker” saga. I accept that it’s unfortunate that some girls have been saddled with industrial grade tits but is it that much of a story? I just don’t think it is. But it’s all I’ve heard about morning, noon and night. It’s giving me the pip.
    Another snapshot of what a truly crappy society we live in these days.

  8. No damn it I am going to comment. The mist has subsided to an acceptable level (just).
    As an example these untouchables work like this;

    If sheeple were to go to a shop and receive change that was short of say 1p, would the sheeple be bothered to 1. Check the amount given was correct and 2. Say anything about being short changed by ONLY 1p?
    For the majority it would be NO. Why? Can’t be bothered, embarrassed to be seen to care that much about 1p, causing hold ups for others that have got a life to get on with, etc, etc.

    Working with that example Mr Bob Robbins defense will be along the lines of:
    Do you really think that Mr Robbins would stoop so low as to jeopardise his exemplary character and job for the sake of JUST £34,000 when his salary is gazillions and not forgetting his “Bonus” of gazillions AND his pension of gazillions.
    REALLY! WHO DO YOU TAKE HIM FOR?

    Answer: Maybe this is the part that I should refrain from answering!

    Neeiigghhh!

    • It is £34K before tax. Assuming it is subject to cap gains at 28 per cent it is $24.5K after tax, nicepocket money but not life changing and not on the scale of the Hank Paulson’s, Robert Rubin’s who made billions and broke the system. Legal but unethical but when the heck was Tesco ethical?

      • Old Asia
        “nicepocket money but not life changing and not on the scale of the Hank Paulson’s, Robert Rubin’s who made billions and broke the system.”

        Exactly my point, it’s ONLY £24 and something thousand.

        To the 1%ers it’s not even 1p, to me the sheeple it’s bordering on life changing! It would at least get me out of my windmill for a while!

  9. In fairness to the man, Philip Clarke authorised the sale and as soon as that happened then it is no longer his concern.
    If there are no rules in place and the Boss says its ok then why should he worry?
    I also think that defacing the man’s photo was very immature
    If it was you who did one thing wrong and had your name dragged through the dirt in the parers how would you feel?

  10. So Bob Robbins is following the example of Northern Rock CEO Adam Applegarth who sold all of his shares in the Rock for a tidy 2.6 million pounds shortly before his bank went spectacularly belly up. They do it because they can get away with it and no one is going to stop them.
    Had Bernie Madoff been British he would probably have sold all of his shares the week before his ponzi investment scheme collapsed and now be sitting back enjoying a £700k per annum pension, a knighthood, and a seat in the House of Lords. He would also be happily attending Tory or Labour fund raising dinners while the politicians kissed his arse.

  11. As Warren Buffett who through Berkshire Hathaway owns just under 3% of Tesco and who has made it his mantra to try and have an “above any reproach” attitude to any business dealings he is involved in, not I might add always totally succeeding, the latest being the “resignation” after, it must be said, a somewhat fraught process at Berkshire Hathaway, of his heir apparent David Sokol for alleged personal share purchases in a company called Lubrizol just prior to the Berkshire Hathaway takeover of that company.
    Whilst the amount of money David Sokols alleged insider trading involved was considerably larger than amounts quoted for Mr Noel “Bob” Robbins, a betrayal of trust by a company executive is a betrayal of trust, be it for £1,000, or £1,000,000.
    As he is a major shareholder in Tesco it would be interesting to know Mr Buffetts views on this alleged use by the COO of Tesco of inside information for his personal gain, its alleged use prevented Mr Robbins taking a loss on his shareholding in Tesco, unlike Mr Buffet and the millions of other Tesco shareholders who were not privy to the information and just found themselves considerably poorer.

  12. The fact is the charts have been screaming sell Tesco since it hit 368p last March and the new target is around 278-284p. The policy question is how to you set the rules on insider selling. There have to be rules but whatever the rule there will always be cliff edges, this side is ok, the other side is death and infamy. He must have known the company was not doing well long before December and should be raising some cash but was insufficiently motivated to action. To procrastinate is human and that makes it look doubly bad when you do act.

  13. I have always known, there is less morals in people who wear suits, then people who wear overalls. Make a phone call on the company or take a sicky, ” how disgusting”, Use the system to make you a few grand and its, “well done my boy”.
    Remember two things, 1] Its not what you know its who you know, and 2] Don’t do as i do, do as i say.
    I suppose it is unlawful if all us Grey Haired Oldies stopped shopping at Tescos in protest?

    • ……and 3] Some of us are more equal than others

      “I suppose it is unlawful if all us Grey Haired Oldies stopped shopping at Tescos in protest?”

      No way, rock on Grandma!

  14. Did you see in the Mail article that
    Another executive, Ken Towle, sold nearly £155,000 of shares shortly before Christmas. The head of Tesco’s online arm would have been £28,000 worse off had he held on until yesterday, when the shares closed at 316p

    Have they bought them back again? How long do they have to wait under rules?
    I suspect the ever more ridiculous Guardian won’t touch this one, having had its fingers burnt over the complex overseas tax arrangements story/grovel. At least the company’s solicitors haven’t demanded an apology and statement to the effect that it hadn’t happened. Not just one, but two coincidences. Nothing else..

  15. I have a sneaky feeling that many would, if they had prior knowledge: stock up on Petrol before a price increase. That is not the same as Refineries stopping offloading at ports until and increase is price can be ‘arranged’. Yes quite different altogether. Money Talks just what does it say to some people?…Mine says ” yes, you do NEED those shoes, and that handbag is a real neccessity”

    I would love to see scrutiny regarding ‘charities’. I am sickened by their lobbying and power seeking ventures. They are after all a ‘public’ funded corporation (tax free).

  16. Hello there! This blog post couldn’t be written much better! Reading through this article reminds me of my previous roommate! He constantly kept preaching about this. I most certainly will send this information to him. Fairly certain he will have a very good read. I appreciate you for sharing!

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