Tesco’s banking arm has appointed PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) to investigate a massive hacking attack – even as the accountancy firm remains the subject of a regulatory probe involving Britain’s biggest retailer.
Sky News has learnt that PwC was drafted in by the lender’s board shortly after the hacking incident emerged in November, just six months after Tesco axed the firm as its auditor, ending a 32-year relationship.
Tesco Bank repaid approximately £2.5m of losses incurred by thousands of customers in November when a “highly sophisticated attack” allowed hackers to withdraw money fraudulently.
The lender blocked current account customers from making online payments using their debit cards for a number of days.
Benny Higgins, Tesco Bank’s chief executive, apologised to customers but declined to comment further on the attack, citing an ongoing criminal investigation.
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) is understood to have been notified about the appointment of PwC to work on the Tesco Bank probe, which comes as the Financial Reporting Council (FRC) continues a two year-long inquiry into the “preparation, approval and audit of the financial statements of Tesco plc” for the financial years ending 2012, 2013 and 2014.
Tesco overstated its profits by more than £300m, prompting the Serious Fraud Office to charge three of the retailer’s former executives.
The hacking incident was the latest in a string of attacks perpetrated by cybercriminals, with MPs including the Treasury Select Committee chairman Andrew Tyrie urging much closer regulatory scrutiny of banks’ IT security.
Mr Tyrie wrote last month to Ciaran Martin, the chief executive of GCHQ’s National Cyber Security Centre, to ask him to examine whether a “single point of responsibility” for financial services cybercrime should be established.
The Financial Times reported last month that the FCA was exploring whether Tesco Bank had exposed its customers to fraud by issuing debit cards with sequential numbers.
One source said the move to hire PwC, which prompted surprise among other professional services firms contacted by Sky News on Wednesday, illustrated the dearth of relevant expertise in the sector for such probes.
A Tesco Bank spokesman said: “Following the criminal activity on some current accounts last year, Tesco Bank immediately launched a third-party investigation to understand exactly what had taken place to ensure we could put any measures in place to protect our customers in the future.
“We also continue to work closely with the authorities and regulators in their criminal investigation.
“Our priority throughout has been to look after our customers.”
Tesco, which will update the City on its Christmas trading performance on Thursday, announced earlier this week that it was axing 1,000 jobs as part of an effort to streamline its distribution operations.