Tesco chairman John Allan accused of inappropriate behaviour

·4-min read

Tesco chairman John Allan has denied three of four allegations of inappropriate and unprofessional behaviour made by four women.

He had been accused by women, who contacted The Guardian newspaper, of touching a Tesco senior staff member on the bottom at its June 2022 AGM and touching a staff member at a CBI annual dinner in 2019, when he was president of the organisation.

The article also accused him of making inappropriate remarks on those two alleged occasions and also to two female staff members of the CBI (Confederation of British Industry) business lobby group.

Mr Allan, 74, has accepted he made a comment about a CBI staff member in 2019 that she found offensive.

A spokesperson said "Mr Allan was mortified after making the comment in 2019 and he immediately apologised. The person concerned agreed the matter was closed and no further action was taken."

But the spokesperson described the other claims as "simply untrue".

"Even so, Mr Allan requested that Tesco and Fox Williams - who were instructed by the CBI to conduct an investigation following various allegations - investigate them."

Following accusations of inappropriate behaviour and sexual misconduct at the CBI, law firm Fox Williams were hired at the beginning of March to investigate claims.

"Fox Williams decided not to [investigate], and Tesco are not aware of and have not received any complaints about Mr Allan's conduct either at the 2022 AGM or over the eight years that he has been chairman of Tesco," Mr Allan's spokesperson said.

"Tesco have also checked their confidential protector line - which enables anonymous complaints - and found no complaints against Mr Allan."

Solicitors Fox Williams have disputed the spokesperson's characterisation of their investigation.

"It is not correct that Fox Williams decided not to investigate the allegations made against Mr Allan by the Guardian," a statement from the firm said.

"At the time of the investigation, the City of London police had opened enquiries into alleged sexual misconduct at the CBI following the allegations made by the Guardian.

"Our investigation was therefore undertaken after liaison with the City of London Police as to how to proceed with respect to individuals interviewed and information provided. As a result, we were not permitted to speak to all individuals involved in the allegations."

The firm said the scope of its investigation was "predominantly focused on whether the CBI's leadership was aware of any of the events before the recent media reporting, and if so what steps they took or failed to take in response".

"Mr Allan was provided with the opportunity to give an account to the CBI via Fox Williams which, as far as we are aware, he has chosen not to do," the statement said.

A spokesperson for Mr. Allan said in response: "This is incorrect.

"On 4 April 2023, Mr. Allan's lawyers confirmed that he wished for Fox Williams to investigate the allegations against him and were told Fox Williams would be in touch.

"On 21 April 2023, Mr. Allan's lawyers asked about progress, explaining that Mr. Allan was available at their convenience and requesting that a date be proposed for the interview. Fox Williams chose not to meet him.

"Instead, on 23 April 2023, Fox Williams offered to forward a statement from Mr. Allan to the CBI although confirmed that their investigation had already concluded."

Mr Allan served as the president of the CBI from 2018 to 2020 and has been chairman of Tesco for eight years, since 2015.

He was also the chairman of house construction firm Barratt for nine years. His tenure ended in September.

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A Barratt spokesperson said: "We have clear and secure whistleblowing policies in place and have never been made aware of any concerns or allegations in relation to John Allan during his time at Barratt."

Tesco has also responded to claims.

"At Tesco, we are committed to ensuring all colleagues are respected and feel safe at work. Tesco's people policies apply to all colleagues, and all concerns or complaints raised about conduct are always taken very seriously and investigated thoroughly," the company said.

"This is a serious allegation, and if anyone has any concerns or information, we would ask them to share those with us through any of our reporting channels including through our confidential protector line, so we can investigate."

"John Allan's conduct has never been the subject of a complaint during his tenure as chair of Tesco."