Today’s session of the Leveson Inquiry into UK media ethics was a slightly less riveting affair than yesterday, but there were some highlights. Former Prime Minister John Major told the hearing that in a 1997 meeting with Rupert Murdoch, the media mogul said, “I would like you to change your policy and if you don’t change your policy, my organization cannot support you.” According to Major, Murdoch was referring to stances on Europe. In his written statement to the inquiry, Major said, “Both Mr Murdoch and I kept our word. I made no change in policy and Mr Murdoch’s titles did indeed oppose the Conservative party. It came as no surprise to me when soon after our meeting, The Sun newspaper announced its support for Labour.” Referring to Major’s evidence, a News International spokesperson said, “News International titles did not act in unison in the 1997 election. The Sunday Times supported John Major, The Times was neutral, and The Sun and the News Of The World supported Labour.”
An employee at News Corp’s British publishing unit was arrested today on suspicion of conspiring to corrupt public officials with illegal payments for stories, Bloomberg reports. Police didn’t identify the 37-year-old but the Telegraph newspaper said she was Clodagh Hartley, a government editor for The Sun tabloid. She was released on bail. News International confirmed the woman arrested today was an employee but declined to comment further. Her arrest was the result of new information provided to police by News Corp’s Management Standards Committee which is handling the company’s internal investigation.
Erstwhile News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks faced a grueling five hours of questioning Friday at the Leveson Inquiry into UK media ethics. The session focused largely on the relationship between politicians and the press and, as expected, it was confirmed that Brooks has had close dealings with senior British politicians. Those include current Prime Minister David Cameron, who, Brooks said, used to sign his text messages to her “DC” or “LOL” – which he thought meant “lots of love” until she corrected him that it meant “laugh out loud.” She did however refute the idea that Cameron at one time called her as many as 12 times a day. “That’s preposterous,” she said. Cameron did contact her regarding the phone-hacking scandal in 2010 she said, amid news reports of a bevy of civil suits against the ultimately-shuttered News Of The World. She maintained the conversations were general.
Brooks also said she spoke frequently with Rupert Murdoch – “sometimes every day” — when she was one of his senior executives. It’s been well-documented that Murdoch and Brooks were very tight, but she stopped short of confirming that the pair used to swim together during the News Corp chief’s visits to London as was put to her by inquiry counsel Robert Jay. “You need better sources,” she told Jay to laughter in the hearing room.
UPDATED: The UK parliamentary committee charged with looking into the phone-hacking scandal at Rupert Murdoch’s now-shuttered News Of The World released its findings this morning. Shortly thereafter, News Corp said it was “carefully reviewing” the report. In today’s earlier statement it also said: “The Company fully acknowledges significant wrongdoing at News Of The World and apologizes to everyone whose privacy was invaded.” Below is News Corp’s latest response:
NEW YORK, NY – May 1, 2012 — Hard truths have emerged from the Select Committee Report: that there was serious wrongdoing at the News of the World; that our response to the wrongdoing was too slow and too defensive; and that some of our employees misled the Select Committee in 2009.
News Corporation regrets, however, that the Select Committee’s analysis of the factual record was followed by some commentary that we, and indeed several members of the committee, consider unjustified and highly partisan. These remarks divided the members along party lines.
We have already confronted and have acted on the failings documented in the Report: we have conducted internal reviews of operations at newspapers in the United Kingdom and indeed around the world, far beyond anything asked of us by the Metropolitan Police; we have volunteered any evidence of apparent wrongdoing to the authorities; and, we have instituted sweeping changes in our internal controls and our compliance programs on a world-wide basis, to help ensure that
Almost 50 new civil claims have been filed in the phone hacking scandal that has rocked Rupert Murdoch’s UK newspaper division. In London this morning, Hugh Tomlinson, the attorney representing a large part of the claimants said he had 44 new cases and that 2 others had been filed separately, The Guardian reports. The alleged voice mail interceptions concern the now-shuttered tabloid News Of The World, which was controlled by News Corp division News International. Tomlinson told the High Court today that there were 4,791 potential phone hacking victims. Police are said to have identified 1,174 likely victims out of 1,892 who have been contacted, says The Guardian. About 60 cases have already been settled including one brought by Jude Law. Citing an attorney at News Corp’s UK press unit, The Wall Street Journal says the company is determined to settle all possible civil suits. The news of the civil suits comes as lawyers are considering whether to pursue cases in the US. Both James Murdoch, who was formerly the head of News International, and his father Rupert are scheduled to give evidence next week at the Leveson Inquiry into UK media ethics.
EXCLUSIVE: Deadline has learned that American legal action in the News Corp phone-hacking scandal could come as early as the end of this week. UK lawyer Mark Lewis, one of the first to pursue allegations of hacking at the now-defunct News Corp-controlled News Of The World tabloid, will hold a press conference in Manhattan with his U.S. colleague Norman Siegel, former head of the New York Civil Liberties Union. A source close to the lawyers’ camp says the duo will announce what actions — legal and otherwise — it plans to take against Rupert Murdoch’s empire in the U.S. We are told that no names will be given regarding the three stateside hacking cases Lewis and Siegel are contemplating. However, we have learned that despite speculation neither David Beckham, nor Jude Law (nor one of his associates), nor Princess Diana’s former butler Paul Burrell are among potential litigants. “People are getting the names completely wrong,” the insider says. One of the individuals is, however, an American citizen. The lawsuits would be the first to be filed in the U.S., where News Corp has so far limited its exposure to the ongoing hacking investigations in Britain.
Richard Horton, a detective who formerly penned an anonymous police blog, filed suit on April 11 in London against Times Newspapers Ltd, a unit of News Corp’s News International, Bloomberg reports. Horton was exposed by The Times as the author of the blog back in 2009. At the time, he sued to block publication of his name, but lost when the newspaper aruged his identity was in the public interest. Earlier this year, Times editor James Harding acknowledged to the Leveson Inquiry into UK media ethics that the paper had misled the judge in Horton’s case and that a reporter had been given a formal warning after accessing the emails without authorization. He later said, “I sorely regret the intrusion into Richard Horton’s email account by a journalist in our newsroom. On behalf of the newspaper, I apologize.” Horton’s suit against The Times, which has largely avoided the phone hacking and bribery scandals at News International’s The Sun and the now-shuttered News Of The World, seeks “substantial” damages. The new suit comes as British attorney Mark Lewis arrives in the US to begin legal discussions that could lead to several lawsuits being filed over alleged phone hacking by News International employees. Those cases are understood to relate primarily to celebrities whose phones may have been hacked while they were visiting the US.
The embattled News Corp scion’s decision over his future as chairman of BSkyB is balancing on a “fine line,” The Daily Telegraph reports. Murdoch’s position will become tenuous if Parliament’s Culture, Media and Sport Committee censures him for not fully investigating the phone hacking that went on during his tenure as the head of News Corp’s UK media arm, News International. The committee’s findings are expected shortly after Easter. A critical finding could lead regulator Ofcom to extend its investigation into whether Murdoch is a “fit and proper” person to oversee the pay TV company. Per The Telegraph, concerns have been stirred at the board level of BSkyB given that negative report findings could mean Murdoch would be forced to leave with a tarnished reputation. Murdoch recently resigned as executive chairman of News International and has also stepped down from the boards of GlaxoSmithKline and Sotheby’s. At the time of his News International resignation, Murdoch, who had moved to New York, said, “I look forward to expanding my commitment to News Corporation’s international television businesses and other key initiatives across the Company.” Meanwhile, two key independent directors are set to leave the BSkyB board and a third is shifting into a non-independent role, leaving three vacancies to be filled, The Financial Times reports. New independent members could undermine the board’s current unanimous support for Murdoch, the newspaper says.
This is sure to add fuel to Wall Street’s hopeful speculation that News Corp might sell its scandal plagued UK newspapers. Deputy COO James Murdoch, Rupert’s son, has wiped the ink off his hands by resigning from the boards of the company’s UK print operations, according to multiple news reports citing News Corp filings at Companies House, which regulates corporate activities. He left Times Newspaper Holdings — the institution that was supposed to protect the independence of the Times of London and the Sunday Times when Rupert Murdoch bought them in 1981 — as well as News Corporation Investments and News International Publications Limited. These moves follow James’ resignation last month from the executive chairman job at News International, which oversees the UK print operations. He said at the time that the decision made sense following his move to New York to expand “my commitment to News Corporation’s international television businesses and other key initiatives across the Company.” Murdoch has also
The News Corp Deputy COO, and son of CEO Rupert Murdoch, is holding fast to his position that others are to blame for the News Of The World hacking scandal — as well as his company’s effort to downplay the extent of the lawbreaking when executives testified to Parliament about the matter in 2009. ”It would have been better if I had not relied on the people who had assured me that thorough investigations had been carried out and that further investigations were unnecessary,” he said in a seven-page defense sent Monday to the Culture, Media and Sport Committee. Murdoch sent the letter, released today, as committee members prepare to decide whether he and other News International executives misled Parliament in 2009 when they said that phone hacking was limited to one rogue reporter. Murdoch acknowledges that “it would have been better if I had asked more questions, requested more documents and scrutinised them carefully.” But he still points the finger at other execs, especially former legal adviser Tom Crone and former NOTW editor Colin Myler who told Parliament that they warned Murdoch that the scandal was bigger than he had publicly acknowledged. Their testimony ”displays inconsistencies on this subject, while my evidence has always been consistent,” Murdoch writes. Before taking charge of the UK print unit in late 2007 he “did not follow the details” of earlier arrests. Even afterward he was ”never intimately involved with the workings of News Of The World, or any of the other newspapers within News International” in the belief that “a newsroom should be run by the editor.”
This would make the second time in 8 months the former News Of The World editor has been arrested in connection with the investigation into phone hacking at the newspaper. The UK media is reporting that Brooks, a once close associate of Rupert Murdoch, was taken into custody this morning – along with her horse-trainer husband – on suspicion of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. Scotland Yard has not confirmed the identities of the total 6 people arrested today, but has detailed the age, sex and location of the suspects. “A 43 year old woman was arrested at her home address in Oxfordshire and is being interviewed at an Oxfordshire police station,” the Metropolitan Police said in a statement on its website. Brooks is 43 and lives in Oxfordshire. It recently emerged that Scotland Yard agreed to lend Brooks a horse for two years, reigniting questions about the relationships between police officers and News Corp’s UK press arm, News International, The Independent notes. Brooks was also arrested last summer after the phone hacking scandal broke open and 2 days after she resigned as chief executive of News International. She was released on bail. All of today’s arrests were made between 5 and 7am by officers from Operation Weeting, the taskforce charged with investigating the illegal interception …
UK media say that two unnamed journalists from Rupert Murdoch‘s The Sun tabloid newspaper have attempted to commit suicide. Although details are sketchy and come from unnamed sources, here’s what’s being reported: The Independent newspaper says the people were senior journalists and had recently been arrested (in total, 11 current or former Sun employees have been arrested on suspicions that they bribed police for news tips). The pair has been checked into hospital and News International is paying for their care, according to Financial Times sources. Reuters, citing people close to News International, also reports the journalists appeared to have tried to take their own lives. The Sun is controlled by News Corp’s News International, which has been rocked by a phone-hacking scandal and allegations of illegal payments to public officials for information. News Corp last year established a Management and Standards Committee to oversee an internal probe and has been cooperating with the police in their ongoing investigations. Some Sun journalists were previously reported to be mulling legal action against News International that would claim their right to freedom of expression was breached when evidence about their sources was turned over to investigators, and these latest developments — though they remain unconfirmed — are unlikely to soothe tensions.
That question seems to intrigue News Corp watchers far more than any debate about succession plans following today’s announcement that Deputy COO James Murdoch is relinquishing his role as executive chairman of the UK publishing unit. News Corp shares are up about 2% at mid-day, a contrast to the overall market which is slightly down. And many believe it’s because James’ departure from the publishing business gives investors a little more reason to hope that Rupert might ditch some or all of his newspapers. He loves the assets, but the Street considers them to be growth-challenged distractions. Wells Fargo Securities analyst Marci Ryvicker calls the news about James “one sign” that newspapers “may be spun, sold or otherwise shed.” Yesterday COO Chase Carey said that News Corp recognized such a move might help its stock price, which he says is “woefully undervalued.” But he tried to douse any belief that a plan to unload newspapers is on the company’s front-burner. “Our focus is on managing these businesses and improving profitability,” he said.
Why so little attention to James and his role in the line of succession? It’s now a foregone conclusion that
He’ll focus on News Corp’s pay TV operations once he moves to New York, the company says. It makes no mention of the fact that under James Murdoch’s watch at News International the UK publishing operation became embroiled in a humongous phone hacking and bribery scandal. But it’s telling that Tom Mockridge, who became CEO of News International in July, will now report to COO Chase Carey — not Murdoch, who retains his title as News Corp’s Deputy COO. Also noteworthy: CEO Rupert Murdoch’s citation of James’ accomplishments doesn’t include his management of UK publishing. James credits the unit’s “tremendous momentum” to ”the leadership of my father and Tom Mockridge.” News Corp has scoffed at speculation that it might dump its troubled newspapers — a move that some investors believe would boost the stock price. “Our focus is on managing these businesses and improving profitability,” Carey told investors yesterday.
Here’s today’s release about James:
New York, NY February 29, 2012 – News Corporation today announced that, following his relocation to the Company’s headquarters in New York, James Murdoch, Deputy Chief Operating Officer, has relinquished his position as Executive Chairman of News International, its UK publishing unit. Tom Mockridge, Chief Executive Officer of News International, will continue in his post and will report to News Corporation President and COO Chase Carey.
Today brings more potential bad news for Rupert Murdoch’s embattled News International. British Labour Party MP Tom Watson tweeted this morning that the Metropolitan police have confirmed to him they are investigating News International-owned The Times newspaper over email hacking. Watson, who is also a member of the Parliamentary committee for Culture, Media and Sport, had written to the police last month asking if they would investigate after the newspaper’s editor, James Harding. He told the Leveson Inquiry into U.K. media ethics that a Times reporter had been given a formal warning after accessing private emails without authorization. A police spokesman told the BBC officers were in contact with Watson regarding the specific issues he seeks to raise, but said they would not provide “running commentary.”
Four current and former staff members of the popular British tabloid The Sun and a policeman were arrested today as part of the continuing investigation into corruption that arose out of phone hacking at News Corp’s shuttered News Of The World, Reuters reported. The five arrests involved suspected payments by journalists to police officers for information. Police also searched London offices of Sun publisher News International, the British arm of News Corp, whose Management and Standards Committee said today’s operation was the result of information it had passed to police. Said a Sun reporter, who asked not to be identified: “Everyone is a bit shocked, there is disbelief really. But there is a big difference between phone hacking and payments to the police.” Today’s operation raises to 13 the number of arrests in the police bribery probe, which is separate from the phone-hacking inquiry that has resulted in three criminal investigations.
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.
BSkyB Board Backs James Murdoch Following Testimony MPs Appear To Accept As Spectacularly Ill-Informed
James Murdoch can breathe a little easier, if Parliament’s conclusion about his and former employees’ roles in phone-hacking plays out the way the Guardian predicted Friday. While Murdoch’s MP inquisitors seem inclined to believe the News International chairman’s assertions that he was never informed of the full extent of what had been taking place at News of the World, the paper’s former lawyer Tom Crone and former Editor Colin Myler aren’t likely to get off as easily. Both Crone and Myler are expected to be censured by the House of Commons culture, media and sport select committee for failure to disclose all the evidence they were aware of at previous hearings. Murdoch has consistently maintained that Crone, Myler and Les Hinton, among others, never apprised him of the full extent of phone-hacking, for which MPs will at worst characterize the News Corp deputy COO as spectacularly ill-informed.
Following Murdoch’s emergence from Thursday’s second Parliamentary grilling relatively unscathed, the board of British Sky Broadcasting on Friday expressed confidence in his continued performance as chairman of the satellite broadcaster. “We agreed that James Murdoch has done a first class job,” Nicholas Ferguson, BSkyB’s senior independent director, said in a letter to investors asserting that Murdoch’s handling of the scandal had “no effect on sales, customers or suppliers over the last five months.” A group of British pension funds who hold about 1% of …
Here is more fodder for the UK parliamentary committee that is scheduled to hear testimony from News Corp deputy COO James Murdoch on Thursday: It looks like the conglomerate’s now-defunct News of the World hired an investigator to tail a pair of lawyers that were representing victims of the UK tabloid’s phone-hacking scandal. The BBC reported that the surveillance of Mark Lewis and Charlotte Harris took place during the 18 months that James was executive chairman of News International, the UK newspaper arm of News Corp and the parent company of NOTW. The practice included having Derek Webb, a former police officer who ran a private-eye agency, follow and film Lewis’ family — including his teenage daughter — in an effort to dig up dirt on the lawyer and stop him from taking more cases as the scandal grew (Lewis represented the family of Milly Dowler, the murdered schoolgirl whose voicemails were hacked into by NOTW, a revelation that most directly led to the tabloid’s demise). Said News International in a statement: “While surveillance is not illegal, it was clearly deeply inappropriate in these circumstances. This action was not condoned by any current executive at the company.” The BBC said Webb is speaking out about the practice because News International has not paid him for his services; he had been working for the tabloid for eight years.