MORRISONS’ treasurer and head of tax is under investigation by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) for insider trading ahead of its £216m tie-up with Ocado last year, in yet another blow for the troubled supermarket.
Paul Coyle was suspended from his post after being arrested in December in Harrogate by the Yorkshire police in connection with an FCA probe into insider dealing and market abuse.
Coyle, who has not been charged, is believed to have been held on suspicion of buying shares in Ocado before its partnership with Morrisons was announced.
The 25-year deal has sent shares in Ocado soaring 210 per cent since it was first confirmed in March last year.
Morrisons is understood to have handed over a list of all those with prior knowledge of the deal – known as the insider list – to the FCA following the arrest. No other executives are thought to be under investigation.
The probe comes after a tough Christmas for Morrisons and its chief executive Dalton Philips. The company was the worst hit of the major supermarkets and is banking on its newly launched grocery website to catch up with rivals and boost trading.
The group is also being circled by activist investors eyeing a radical shake-up of its property estate to raise capital.
According to Companies House, Coyle is a board director of two subsidiaries Wm Morrison Online and Wm Morrison Property Investments.
He was also on the board of a local charity known as St Michael’s Hospice, but accounts show that he resigned just days after the arrest.
Before joining Morrisons in 2006, Coyle was head of tax at the insurer RAC and also worked for KPMG. He also served as president of the Student Representative Council (SRC) during his studies at Dundee university.
Morrisons refused to comment, with the FCA only referring to the arrest of a 49-year-old Morrisons worker.