A SENIOR Morrisons employee has been arrested over allegations of insider trading in relation to the launch of its online grocery operation with Ocado.
Paul Coyle, group treasurer and head of tax at the Bradford-based supermarket, was held last month in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, as part of an investigation by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).
According to reports, the allegations relate to dealing in Ocado shares before the tie-up between the two retailers was announced. The agreement had sent the stock soaring.
Reports said Coyle, who has not been charged, has not returned to work since the arrest.
Morrisons is using Ocado’s technological know-how to make its belated debut in internet deliveries, which finally began earlier this month.
It announced in May that it had signed a 25-year deal with Ocado to acquire its distribution centre in Dordon, Warwickshire, for £170 million and use its technology.
The FCA said in a statement on 12 December : “The Financial Conduct Authority with the assistance of the North Yorkshire and West Yorkshire Police has this morning executed a search warrant in Harrogate.
“One male, aged 49, has been arrested and is currently in custody to be questioned in connection with an investigation into insider dealing and market abuse.”
North Yorkshire Police said yesterday that a 49-year-old man arrested in December was released on police bail until 19 March.
Morrisons declined to comment after Coyle was named in media reports yesterday and he was unavailable for comment.
The grocer has endured a miserable start to the year after reporting a 5.6 per cent slide in like-for-like sales over Christmas. One analyst described the result as “quite awful”.
It is also reportedly being targeted by activist investors who want it to improve its performance and are pushing for it to sell off property to raise cash.
Shares in Morrisons closed up 2.5p at 255p.