UPDATES WITH NEW INFORMATION: A 130-day trial highlighted by testimony as lurid as the tabloid headlines at its center ended today with a split decision for two of media mogul Rupert Murdoch‘s most trusted consiglieres. Rebekah Brooks, the flame-haired former head of Murdoch’s U.K. print operations, was found not guilty on five charges related to the notorious telephone-hacking scandal that resulted in the 2011 shuttering of the News Of The World scandal sheet. The official jury findings were not guilty on one count of conspiracy to hack voicemails, two counts of conspiracy to pay public officials and two counts of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice
Brooks’ successor, bespectacled tabloid editor Andy Coulson, the former communications chief to Prime Minister David Cameron, may face prison time, having been found guilty of conspiring to hack phones while he ran the News Of The World. The jury is still considering charges of misconduct in public office against Coulson and former News of the World royals editor Clive Goodman.
Coulson, a former lover of Brooks’s, was the only one among seven on trial found guilty of conspiracy to intercept mobile phone calls and messages. The Cameron connection will undoubtedly exacerbate reaction to the decision, as the verdicts reverberate through UK and U.S. political and media centers.
News UK, formerly known as News International and part of Murdoch’s News Corp, said in a statement: “We said … Read More »
Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson are already facing criminal charges in relation to the phone-hacking scandal that has rocked News Corp.‘s UK press arm, News International. Today, Britain’s Crown Prosecution Service said it would also level criminal charges against former News International chief Brooks and former News Of The World editor Coulson in relation to Operation Elveden, the investigation into alleged corrupt payments by newspapers to police officers and other public officials. Former Rupert Murdoch lieutenant Brooks was editor of The Sun newspaper from 2003-2009 and later became head of News International. Prosecutors today said they had concluded that Brooks, along with ex-Sun reporter John Kay and Ministry of Defence employee Bettina Jordan Barber, “should be charged with a conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office between 1 January 2004 and 31 January 2012. This conspiracy relates to information allegedly provided by Bettina Jordan Barber for payment, which formed the basis of a series of news stories published by The Sun. It is alleged that approximately £100,000 was paid” to Barber between 2004 and 2011.” Read More »
Private detective Glenn Mulcaire is not protected under the UK’s equivalent to the Fifth Amendment, the Supreme Court said Wednesday. After a nearly two-year legal battle to avoid such disclosure, Mulcaire will have to turn over possibly self-incriminating evidence, the names of journalists at the News Of The World who allegedly instructed him to intercept voice messages, and how victims were allegedly targeted, according to The Guardian. The ruling stems from a breach of privacy suit brought against Mulcaire by Nicola Phillips, assistant to celebrity publicist Max Clifford. Phillips’ attorney Mark Lewis contends the decision establishes precedent. If so, it could impact the ongoing investigations into phone hacking at the defunct tabloid by potentially uncovering the extent of such practices and who was aware of them. Read More »
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UPDATE, 4:37 AM: The report is not a united one. It passed 6 votes to 4 with 3 voting against the inlcusion of a line that reads that Rupert Murdoch is “not a fit person to exercise the stewardship of a major international company.” According to MP Louise Mensch, no Conservative Party member felt they could support the report itself because that line was included. “We all felt that was widely outside the scope of a select committee,” Mensch said. She also said it appeared to be an “attempt to influence Ofcom,” the UK regulator that is currently weighing James Murdoch and News Corp’s “fit and proper” status to hold a broadcast license on behalf of BSkyB.
Related: News Corp Releases Statement On Phone-Hacking Report
By a majority, not unanimous, vote, the committee concluded that whilst there was no definitive evidence found whether James Murdoch was aware of email hacking at the News Of The World, the committee said it was “astonished” that he did not seek to see evidence on which the decision to settle the Gordon Taylor settlement was based. Taylor, a former soccer player and head of the Professional Footballers’ Association sued over the alleged hacking of his cell phone. In July 2009, The Guardian reported he was paid about $1 million in a settlement.
On the corporate side, the committee also found by a majority vote … Read More »
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Although both James and Rupert Murdoch were expected to be giving evidence this week with regard to the phone hacking scandal, the whole process has taken a decidedly different tack. The fallout from James’ testimony on Tuesday resulted in the resignation of a top Parliamentary aide on Wednesday and a growing brouhaha inside Prime Minister David Cameron’s government. Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s aide, Adam Smith, resigned after emails read on Tuesday showed a possibly inappropriate relationship between the minister’s office and James Murdoch during the BSkyB bid process. Hunt asked Lord Justice Brian Leveson to move up his scheduled testimony date but Leveson said yesterday he was going to continue with his planned timetable. Hunt will appear before the inquiry in May while Cameron and Tony Blair are expected in May or June. Also, the FSA, Britain’s equivalent to the SEC, is understood to be examining whether the email exchanges constitute market abuse. Rupert Murdoch’s testimony on Wednesday was squarely focused on his relationship to politicians. Day two of his evidence will begin soon and should last for a couple of hours this morning. It’s possible they’ll get to the phone hacking scandal today. All times below are UK local time.
10:09 Counsel Robert Jay asks Murdoch about David Yelland, editor of The Sun in the late 1990s. Yelland once said in an interview that “all Murdoch editors go on a journey where they end up agreeing with everything Rupert says…You look at the world through Rupert’s eyes.”
Murdoch: “I understand what you’re saying but I think it’s nonsense and should be taken in the context of Yeland’s strange autobiography,” in which he admits he was drunk most of the time at The Sun.
Murdoch: “I certainly do take part in the policy decisions of The Sun, I think that’s my job.”
Murdoch: “Generally speaking, the issues that we get interested in and fight for you’ll find them in The Sun and you’ll find that I would agree with most of them if not all.
10:12 Jay turns to Murdoch’s relationship with politicians and asks if they would know what Murdoch is thinking or his views by knowing him over time.
“I really only see very little of them. I’m only in this country less than 10% of my time…And, I think they know my philosophy, yes.” Read More »
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In London this morning, James Murdoch is expected to answer questions and give evidence as they relate to phone hacking at former News Corp tabloid News Of The World. He may also be probed about alleged email hacking at The Times, also controlled by News Corp. Murdoch stepped down as head of News Corp’s UK press arm, News International, in February amid the ongoing phone hacking scandal. The move was not a tacit admission that he tried to cover up phone hacking, he said in a March letter sent to the Culture, Media and Sport Committee that read in part, “This is untrue. I take my share of responsibility for not uncovering wrongdoing earlier. However, I have not misled Parliament. I did not know about, nor did I try to hide, wrongdoing.”
The Leveson Inquiry into UK media ethics began last fall, spurred on by allegations of phone hacking and bribery at News Of The World after the scandal broke wide open in July and it was revealed that the voice mail of murdered school girl Milly Dowler had been accessed. Since then, the scandal has mushroomed and last week it was reported that almost 50 new civil claims have been filed. There are said to be 4,791 potential victims and police are believed to have identified 1,174 likely victims of phone hacking out of 1,892 who have been contacted. About 60 cases have already been settled and News Corp maintains it is determined to settle all possible cases. Both James and his father Rupert appeared together before a Parliamentary committee last July and James reappeared before the committee in November. This time, James is on his own again. Rupert will give evidence tomorrow and is also scheduled for Thursday morning if necessary. We’ll be following the testimony closely over the next few days. All times below are UK local time:
Murdoch arrived at the high court over an hour before he was due to give testimony, Financial Times correspondent Ben Fenton tweeted. Read More »
The new Sunday edition of Rupert Murdoch’s Sun newspaper sold 3.26 million copies when it debuted in the UK yesterday, according to the News Corp chief’s Twitter feed. Yet the most interesting new development involving the tabloid is a charge today that came from Sue Akers, the deputy police commissioner overseeing investigations into alleged illegal practices by journalists. Akers told the Leveson Inquiry into UK media ethics that there “appears to have been a culture at The Sun of illegal payments” to police officers as well as members of the military, the government and other public organizations. (The Sun is controlled by the News Corp-owned News International.) According to The Guardian, Akers suggested there was a “network of corrupted officials” that journalists at The Sun could call upon and that one official received more than $126,500 (£80,000) over several years. Following Akers’ testimony, Murdoch gave the following statement: “She said the evidence suggested such payments were authorised by senior staff at The Sun. As I’ve made very clear, we have vowed to do everything we can to get to the bottom of prior wrongdoings in order to set us on the right path for the future. That process is well under way. The practices Sue Akers described at the Leveson inquiry are ones of the past, and no longer exist at The Sun. We have already emerged a stronger company.” Read More »
The names of at least 28 employees of News Corp’s U.K. subsidiary appear in notes seized from a private investigator who specialized in phone hacking, the chief counsel for the government’s inquiry into the scandal surrounding News International and the shuttered News of the World tabloid says. “At least 27 other NI employees” in addition to the jailed former royal editor Clive Goodman appear in notes of Glenn Mulcaire, the PI who was also jailed for intercepting voicemails in January 2007. Chief counsel Robert Jay said the number of names that appear scribbled on Mulcaire’s notes “suggests wide-ranging, illegal activity within the organization.” Police also now suspect that phone hacking may have continued until 2009, which would include Murdoch’s tenure that began in 2007. Suspicion of wrongdoing has also spread to another News International paper, the Sun, and to a competitor, the Daily Mirror, whose parent Trinity Mirror’s spokesman said the company has no knowledge of ever using Mulcaire. Read More »
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UPDATE: James Murdoch confidently and steadfastly maintained that he has been cooperative and fully forthcoming about what he knew and did not know when he testified at his previous appearance before MPs. Facing hostile questioning and bristling at suggestions the business under his supervision was like the mafia, Murdoch cooly but aggressively continues to maintain he was never informed of the specific contents of a damning email about the News Of The World‘s level of involvement or that there was any evidence of widespread phone-hacking. In a stark “they said/he said” contradiction of the former executives’ assertions, he reiterated that former News International lawyer Tom Crone and News Of The World former editor Colin Myler never showed him or disclosed to him all the legal documents surrounding the phone-hacking scandal. When asked about Crone and Myler’s assertions that he was informed, Murdoch said, “It is inconsistent and not right.” Furthermore, when he took over News Corp’s UK businesses, Murdoch said outgoing executive Les Hinton never discussed phone hacking with him. Frustrated by Murdoch’s insistence that none of his subordinates ever disclosed to him the full amount of any evidence they appear to have supplied his inquisitors, Tom Watson, long the Murdochs’ toughest and most persistent critic, countered: “You must be the first Mafia boss in history not to know he was running a criminal enterprise.”
LIVE-BLOGGING 1:26 PM: Paul Farrelly … Read More »
James Murdoch isn’t going to succeed his father Rupert as CEO of News Corp — if you don’t believe that yet, then wait for November 10 when he’s due to testify again before the parliamentary committee investigating the News Of The World phone-hacking scandal. Media execs and close News Corp watchers tell me that James would have to perform a PR miracle to enhance his already tarnished reputation: He’s on the defensive after former NOTW legal affairs manager Tom Crone and editor Colin Myler testified in September that he knew more about the lawbreaking earlier than he has let on — raising the possibility that he was engaged in a cover-up. James’ testimony comes after institutional shareholders just made it clear that they don’t want him: Guardian columnist Dan Sabbagh called the News Corp Deputy COO “dead man walking” last week after 75% of voting shareholders aside from the Murdoch family, other directors, and Rupert’s ally Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal opposed James’ election to the board. Analysts and reporters will have a chance to raise more questions about the company’s governance Wednesday after News Corp reports its earnings for the quarter that ended in September.
A lot of people say James is in a similar predicament to the one that former Disney CEO Michael Eisner was in before he was forced out in 2005. Eisner initially fended off efforts by former board members Roy Disney and Stanley Gold to oust him from power. But their steady criticisms soured institutional investors to the point where Eisner’s presence hurt Disney’s stock and made it impossible to hang on. Read More »
More trouble for James Murdoch today: UK police told several News International executives — including former CEO Rebekah Brooks — in 2006 that several News of the World journalists were involved in phone hacking, according to a report today in The Independent. The paper says it has “strong circumstantial evidence” that in August 2006 a senior police officer supplied names of lawbreaking reporters to Brooks. She’s one of Rupert Murdoch’s closest allies and was arrested by Scotland Yard in July.
The report raises new questions about Murdoch’s claim that he believed as late as 2008 that only one reporter — former NOTW royals reporter Clive Goodman — had been implicated. The date is important: Murdoch maintains that he wasn’t trying to cover up the extent of the scandal in 2008 when he paid an astronomical $1.4M settlement to a hacking victim who was aware of a second reporter’s involvement — on the condition that the matter be kept secret. Read More »
The decision by parliament’s Culture Media And Sport committee to recall James Murdoch and Les Hinton could be important. But it isn’t surprising. The committee investigating the News Of The World hacking scandal has a lot of questions about whether Murdoch may have tried to cover up the defunct tabloid’s lawbreaking now that two former executives have contradicted one of the News Corp Deputy COO’s key claims. Murdoch says he believed only one reporter had been involved with phone hacking in 2008 when he agreed to pay a hacking victim an astronomical $1.4M settlement on the condition that the victim keep quiet about the matter. At the time, the company publicly said that hacking was limited to a single rogue reporter. But former NOTW lawyer Tom Crone and editor Colin Myler recently told the committee that before Murdoch agreed to the payoff, he had seen an email that made it clear a second reporter could be implicated in the case. The committee also wants to know about News Corp payments to two people convicted of hacking: former NOTW reporter Clive Goodman and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire. Read More »
Tom Watson of Parliament’s Culture, Media and Sport committee — which is investigating the Murdoch scandals — says this is “the most significant piece of evidence that has been revealed so far” involving “one of the largest cover-ups I have seen in my lifetime”: The committee has a March 2007 letter that a fired reporter wrote to the company that says phone hacking “was widely discussed in the daily editorial conference” until then-editor Andy Coulson banned it. Clive Goodman wrote the letter to News International’s Human Resources director — and sent a copy to the company’s then-chief Les Hinton – to appeal his firing for “gross misconduct” after he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to intercept voicemail messages from employees of the royal family. Goodman called the firing “perverse” and “inconsistent” because it was “carried out with the full knowledge and support of” a senior journalist whose name has been redacted at Scotland Yard’s request in a copy of the letter published by The Guardian. The letter adds that a NOTW lawyer and editor “promised on many occasions that I could come back to a job at the newspaper if I did not implicate the paper or any of its staff in my mitigation plea. I did not, and I expect the paper to honour its promise to me.” Four days after the letter was sent, Hinton told Parliament that he had investigated the hacking situation and was convinced that Goodman was the only reporter involved. The Goodman letter also creates big problems for Coulson, who went on to become Prime Minister David Cameron’s spokesman. Coulson has said that he didn’t know that hacking took place under his watch at NOTW. Read More »
There’s more doubt today about whether Deputy COO James Murdoch can take over News Corp. No top executive of a major corporation wants to be accused of lying to a British government committee. But that’s exactly what has happened. The chairman of the committee that grilled James on Tuesday is intent on having him answer more questions after a former News Of The World editor and News International lawyer said Murdoch was “mistaken” in testifying that he didn’t know in 2008 that more than one NOTW reporter was involved with phone hacking. ”We will need to find out” how James responds to the charge Culture, Media and Sport Committee Chairman John Whittingdale says. Although the committee is on vacation, and hasn’t voted to formally recall James, Whittingdale says he wants Murdoch’s response “within a week.” If lawmakers conclude he lied to them then he might have to pay a fine, and could even go to jail.
Hopes that the scandal will blow over are fading with each revelation challenging Murdoch’s account of what happened behind the scenes. Yesterday NOTW editor Colin Myler and News International legal manager Tom Crone contradicted Murdoch’s testimony that he didn’t know in 2008 that NOTW chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck had instigated a hack of soccer union leader Gordon Taylor’s phone. ”In fact, we did inform him,” the two executives said in a statement. If that’s true, then Murdoch could be seen as trying to obstruct justice when … Read More »
Rebekah Brooks Resigns As CEO Of News International
This is huge. Hinton has been one of Rupert Murdoch’s closest lieutenants for 52 years in Australia, the UK and the U.S. But he ran News International during the anything-goes years when the News Of The World phone hacking took place. Hinton says that he didn’t know what was going on under his watch: “That I was ignorant of what apparently happened is irrelevant and in the circumstances I feel it is proper for me to resign from News Corp. and apologize to those hurt by the actions of News of the World.” Murdoch — who rewarded Hinton in 2007 by putting him in charge of Dow Jones, owner of The Wall Street Journal – says the resignation is “a matter of much sadness to me.”
New York, NY, July 15, 2011 – News Corporation today announced the resignation of Les Hinton, Chief Executive Officer of Dow Jones & Company and Publisher of The Wall Street Journal, effective immediately. Mr. Hinton, a 52-year veteran of News Corporation, has led Dow Jones since December, 2007.
Read More »
Andy Coulson, British Prime Minister David Cameron’s communications head, has resigned, saying that the phone-hacking scandal surrounding him has impeded his ability to do the job. He’s become the story. “When the spokesman needs a spokesman, it’s time to move on,” Coulson said. Observers say that Coulson had no option but to quit. Waves of conspiracy theory and innuendo have been lapping ever closer to him. He resigned in 2007 as editor of the News Of the World tabloid because of the scandal. Last month Coulson swore under oath in court that he never knew anything about the illegal phone-hacking even though his newspaper’s royals editor Clive Goodman was jailed for conspiracy to access phone messages and private eye Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for 6 months on the same charge. Earlier this month the News of the World suspended its news editor Ian Edmondson, a key Coulson lieutenant, over hacking into actress Sienna Miller’s phone. Today’s news means that Coulson has resigned twice for something he didn’t know anything about. News International has always maintained that the reporters involved were acting on their own. Rupert Murdoch said in a speech last year that News Corp would hunt out any wrongdoing of its staff.