'Dishonest' Co-op moles sacked

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The Independent Online
Two executive "moles" at the centre of the bitter pounds 1.2bn takeover battle for the Co-operative Wholesale Society were sacked yesterday.

CWS employees Allan Green and David Chambers are alleged to have been involved in stealing and passing on sensitive confidential information to corporate raider Andrew Regan in his abortive buy-out bid.

Their departure follows scathing criticism by Mr Justice Lightman at the High Court on Friday. He said they had behaved in a "clearly dishonest" way, and had engaged in "iniquitous conduct". The judge said: "I regard this as a quite exceptional case ... gross, wilful and disgraceful breach of confidence." He attacked "dishonesty" in the City which had allowed the scandal to develop. Up to 17 institutions and blue-chip companies have been named over the affair.

He awarded the CWS punitive costs against Mr Regan and his associates, expected to be decided at millions of pounds, and agreed to an injunction stopping instituitions from making use of any of the purloined information.

Mr Green, the controller of retailing, and Mr Chambers, the chief general manager in charge of the buying, marketing, and supply chain, will lose their salaries of around pounds 200,000 and pension rights.

Mr Green's dismissal letter said his employment was being terminated in the light of the "sordid facts which have been revealed". He was accused of "the betrayal of the CWS, your colleagues and loyal staff".

The bitter financial battle over whizz-kid predator Mr Regan's attempt to gain control the CWS involved private detectives, taping of phone calls and undercover surveillance. Investigators discovered that Mr Green had made phone calls to the Lanica Trust, a company owned by Mr Regan and associate David Lyons. The Co-op man was observed meeting Mr Regan at a car park in Beaconsfield, Bucks, where documents changed hands. He admitted having discussed CWS strategies with Mr Regan. Mr Chambers had stayed at a London hotel at a Regan company's expense.

"Young Turk" Co-op managers are now planning a shakeup following the collapse of Mr Regan's takeover attempt. Many, frustrated at inertia within the Co-op, secretly welcomed the Regan bid, seeing it as an opportunity to "light a fire" under the organisation.'

They want a more coherent branding and marketing strategy and a campaign to inspire people to shop out of principle, much like the "ethical investing" strategy that restored the fortunes of the Co-op Bank.

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