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Judge says financial watchdog justifiably criticised Mike Ashley’s firm

The Financial Reporting Council had complained about “obfuscation and delay” by Sports Direct in wake of documentation demand

Newcastle United owner and Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley has been dealt a blow by a High Court judge.

Mr Justice Arnold says Sports Direct managers were justifiably criticised by lawyers representing a financial watchdog which wanted documents staff thought would help in an investigation.

Lawyers representing the Financial Reporting Council had “characterised” Sports Direct’s approach as “one of obfuscation and delay verging on obstruction”, and Mr Justice Arnold says that criticism is “entirely justified”.

The judge has now ordered Sports Direct to produce a number of documents wanted by the Financial Reporting Council.

He said the Financial Reporting Council was investigating “the conduct” of auditing firm Grant Thornton in relation to the audit of 2016 Sports Direct financial statements.

Lawyers representing the Financial Reporting Council had complained that Sport Direct had wrongly “failed to comply” when required to provide documents.

They had asked Mr Justice Arnold to make an order “compelling compliance”.

Lawyers representing Sports Direct disputed that bosses had wrongly “failed to comply”.

Mr Justice Arnold had analysed arguments at a High Court hearing in London in July.

He published a ruling on the case, in which he said the criticism of Sports Direct was justified, on Tuesday.

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