01 December 1999

NEWSPAPER GROUP Trinity Mirror revealed that it has been the victim of a 'systematic and detailed de-ception' affecting claimed circulations for three of its titles. Circulations of the Birmingham Evening Mail, the Birmingham Post and the Sunday Mercury were overstated by senior employees who have since left the company. The scam, which included counting the sale of promotional merchandise as newspaper sales, went undetected for six years despite audits by Price Waterhouse Coopers. The deception is likely to provoke an angry response and compensation claims from advertisers and agencies. Trinity Mirror chief executive Philip Graf attempted a damage limitation exercise, claiming that the scam did not affect either reported turnover or profits at the papers involved. He also claimed that readership figures would be unaffected. Although this might mollify shareholders, it will cut little ice with advertisers and TM is hedging its bets by making a £20m provision against legal action by advertisers.