Tescos caves in

Posted on

The Guardian has settled its libel action with Tescos.

Sure, The Guardian has apologised. As was clear within days of the story emerging, it was wrong to claim that 100% of the profits arising from Tesco's sale and lease back deals arose offshore. They didn't.

But as I showed, having interviewed their tax director, they did involve considerable artificiality. The use of Cayman was critical to their success. And as Private Eye has shown since, Tesco is dedicated to offshore corporate tax abuse.

So, of course Tesco had to back off from its absurd case. If it had not then much more of its abuse would have become apparent. A little, untitled, apology some costs and a payment to charity is not much compensation for Tesco and some indication of how weak their case was.

But I also agree, the Guardian got this case wrong on a technicality. The moral is simple: double check before publishing. But the reality is this:

1) Tesco has been shown to be a dedicated (if legal) user of aggressive taxation planning techniques

2) Tescos does use highly artificial offshore structures that have no commercial substance to them

3) Tescos were and are hypocritical in this regard. They promote their business through the absurd school vouchers scheme that imposes massive cost on the public sector having to count and process those ridiculous vouchers Tesco issue like confetti (and I wonder what the cost to the State is of processing them?) whilst at the same time Tescos is going out of its way to deny the revenue the government needs to properly fund schools. If that is not hypocritical, what is?

Of course the Guardian has lost, technically. But the substance of what it said was right, it just got the form wrong. Lawyers won't get that. The rest of the wold will.

What that also says it's time we kicked the lawyers who do this sort of thing up the backside.

And in the meantime, to the Guardian: keep up the good work, there is much, much more to be done.