The Co-operative Group is facing allegations of corporate malpractice in an employment tribunal brought by its former procurement director, Kath Harmeston.
Harmeston, who now holds a senior position at the Ministry of Defence, claims she was unfairly sacked in 2014 after reporting what she believed to be the unlawful or irregular use of members’ money, and the commission of criminal offences. She is seeking more than five million pounds in damages.
The Co-op says Harmeston was sacked because her behaviour was not in keeping with her role.
“We intend to fully and robustly defend our decision to dismiss Kath Harmeston at the upcoming tribunal,” said Allan Leighton, chairman of the Co-op Group.
“We dismissed her because she acted in a manner which was not in keeping with the importance and seniority of her role, nor the values and principles of the Co-op,” he added.
The details of her allegations will become known over the course of the tribunal, which starts in Manchester on Thursday and is expected to last two weeks.
Senior Co-op bosses, including group chief executive Richard Pennycook and chief operating officer Pippa Wicks, are expected to give evidence.
In 2014, a review of the Co-op Group by former board member Lord Myners said the organisation should adopt a much smaller board and focus on being profitable in order to survive.