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Ex-Morrison tax chief jailed for insider dealing

The former group treasurer and head of tax at British high street retailer WM Morrison Supermarkets Plc has been sentenced to 12 months in jail for insider trading by an English court.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) said on Tuesday Paul Coyle had pleaded guilty to two counts of using confidential, price-sensitive information to trade in shares of Morrison's proposed joint venture partner Ocado, an online retail delivery service, between January and May 2013.

Simon Dawson | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Coyle, who used two online accounts in the name of his partner for the trades, made a profit of roughly 79,000 pounds ($121,463) from the scam, the FCA said.

The judge ordered him to pay a 203,234 pound confiscation order and another 15,000 pounds towards prosecution costs. He said the offense was so serious that "an immediate custodial sentence must be imposed."

"Abuse of inside information in this way undermines the integrity of the UK financial markets," said Georgina Philippou, the FCA's director of enforcement and market oversight. "We are committed to prosecuting insider dealing to ensure our markets remain a 'level playing field' for all participants."

Morrison said it was pleased its governance and processes were sufficiently robust to have enabled the authorities to convict Coyle. It called the event "a regrettable case of an individual acting alone."

Insider dealing is a criminal offence in Britain and punishable by a fine or a sentence of up to seven years in jail.