The Stateside phone hacking-scandal suit that a former body double for Angelina Jolie filed against News Corp last summer looks likely to end up in the U.K. if a federal judge doesn’t change his mind. Before a hearing Monday …
Global Showbiz Briefs: New Revelations In Phone-Hacking Scandal; Claire Danes To Host Nobel Peace Prize Concert; More
Hacking Trial Lawyer: Brooks And Coulson Had 6-Year Affair
The phone-hacking trial taking place in London was the source of new revelations Thursday as prosecuting attorney Andrew Edis told jurors that defendants Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson carried on a six-year “secret” affair from 1998-2004. Brooks is the former head of News International (now News UK), the British press arm of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, and Coulson was editor of the now-closed News Of The World before leaving to join Prime Minister David Cameron’s team as his communications director. As part of his opening remarks, Edis stressed that he was not bringing up the relationship between Brooks and Coulson, which the prosecution said was evident from a letter to Coulson that was found on one of Brooks’ computers, to intrude on their privacy or pass judgment. “The point that I’m going to make in relation to that letter is that over the relevant period, what Mr Coulson knew, Mrs Brooks knew too. And what Mrs Brooks knew, Mr Coulson knew too — that’s the point.” He told the court the affair spanned the period covered by the phone-hacking conspiracy charges the pair is facing, according to The Times. “Mrs Brooks and Mr Coulson are charged with conspiracy,” Edis said, “and, when people are charged with conspiracy, the first question a jury has to answer is how well did they know each other? How much did they trust each other?” At the time of the letter in 2004, Brooks was editor of The Sun and Coulson was at NOTW.
News Corp has paid out nearly $200 million in the past year alone in settlements related to the ongoing phone hacking scandal. Late last week, the company made it very clear that it doesn’t intend to make a payment to Eunice Huthart, a former body double for Angelina Jolie. In a June civil complaint, Huthart became the first person to file a hacking-scandal suit against News Corp and its UK press arm News International in the U.S. On September 20, News Corp filed back, asking the federal court to dismiss Huthart’s privacy violations case on a series of grounds. “The Court should dismiss the complaint on the grounds of lack of personal jurisdiction and failure to state a claim. But it need not even reach those issues — instead, the Court should dismiss this lawsuit under the doctrine of forum non conveniens with instructions that it be re-filed, if at all, in the United Kingdom,” said the motion by the company (read it here). A hearing in the case is scheduled for January 6.
Global Showbiz Briefs: Rupert Murdoch Eyeing Financial Times?; Ruling On Hacking Appeal; ‘Either Way’ Helmer’s Next Pic
Report: Rupert Murdoch, Abu Dhabi Media Group Eyeing Financial Times
A report out of Malaysia circulated this morning which claimed Rupert Murdoch and the state-owned Abu Dhabi Media Group are in talks to acquire The Financial Times Group for $1.2B. News Corp. said, “This is completely untrue” and FT owner, Pearson, also denied the report saying, “The Financial Times is not for sale, and Pearson is not in any talks to sell it.” The talks, reported by Malaysian political and business magazine The Edge Review, cited financial executives familiar with the negotiations which had purportedly been going on for the past month. The Financial Times Group includes the flagship Financial Times newspaper as well as The Economist magazine. Per AFP, the report said the Abu Dhabi group is eyeing a 75% stake with Murdoch’s new News Corp. taking 25%. News Corp. officially split into two entities today. In an interview published in the FT website on Thursday evening, chief executive of the publishing business, Robert Thomson, said News Corp. could use its $2.6B of net cash for acquisitions, but there was no mention of the FT, and he also played down expectations of a bid for the Los Angeles Times. Thomson is a former U.S. managing editor of the FT.
Judges Deny Appeals To Drop Charges Against Hacking-Scandal Figures
In other News Corp.-related news, former News International chief Rebekah Brooks, and former News Of The World editor Andy Coulson have both been denied appeals to have criminal charges against them dropped. Neither appeared in a London court Friday, but three judges there dismissed the appeal that had been brought by Brooks, Coulson and three others, The Guardian said. Brooks and Coulson’s trials begin in September, when they will face charges related to phone hacking. The appeals were fashioned on the grounds that the law does not extend to voicemails that already had been listened to.
Global Showbiz Briefs: Savile Claims Hit BBC, Sony TV In Russia, TLC’s ‘Bizarre ER’, Fremantle’s ‘Family Harmony’ And More
BBC Hit With Civil Claims In Jimmy Savile Scandal
A lawyer acting on behalf of 31 victims of the late Jimmy Savile has lodged civil claims for compensation in the high court against the disgraced host’s estate and the BBC over allegations of sexual abuse. Attorney Alan Collins told The Guardian that all claims are against Savile’s estate with “seven or eight” against the BBC itself, which the suits allege has “vicarious liability” in the case. Another lawyer working on behalf of a further 62 victims told Bloomberg that the action was premature, because parties involved had agreed to wait for the results of the police investigation into Savile. “We do not believe the commencement of litigation at this stage to be either necessary or in our clients’ best interest,” she said. – Joe Utichi
UK House of Lords OKs Assistance For Victims Of Media Misbehavior
As David Cameron’s government in the UK continues to dither over what to do about the proposals made in the Leveson Report on the phone-hacking scandal, peers in the House of Lords — the UK parliament’s upper house — have passed an amendment to the Defamation bill establishing a cheap arbitration service between newspapers and those claiming to be wronged by the press. The proposal was a key feature of Leveson’s report. The cross-party amendment was spearheaded by peers including film producer Lord David Puttnam, who said lawmakers had an “obligation to act, and to be seen to act, on behalf of victims past, present and future”. The Defamation Bill, which has a key focus on complaints against alleged defamation published on the Internet, reflected none of the concerns brought to light by the Leveson Report, he said. “It is almost as if Leveson never happened.” The move marks a major rebellion against the government, with peers voting 272 to 141 in favour of legislation which would also introduce a statutory system for press regulation, a line Cameron had promised not to cross. The bill will go back before the House of Commons next month, forcing the Leveson debate back into the open.
Former News International CEO Rebekah Brooks wants her involvement in a U.S. class action suit over the phone hacking scandal dismissed. “The Complaint should be dismissed as to Brooks because Plaintiffs have failed to allege any facts to support a finding of personal jurisdiction over her,” says a motion (read it here) the ex-News Corp executive’s lawyers filed last week. Brooks, who was News International boss from September 2009 to July 15, 2011, is facing criminal charges in the UK in relation to the sprawling phone hacking scandal. A shareholder’s lawsuit launched Stateside on July 19, 2011 accuses Brooks, plus co-defendants Rupert Murdoch, James Murdoch and Les Hinton, as having violated the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. The Avon Pension Fund, Iron Workers Local Union No. 17 Pension Fund and Lewis Wilder’s class action claims that the executives concealed the “existence and extent of illegal and unethical newsgathering practices” at News International.
Attorneys representing News Corp investors asked a judge today to force the media company’s board face a lawsuit for a damaging phone-hacking scandal that occurred on their watch, Reuters reported, while company attorneys asked for the suit to be dismissed. Delaware Chancery Court Judge John Noble declined to say at the end of the three-hour hearing when he might rule. The company contends that board members should not be subject to second-guessing by shareholders. The shareholders say that CEO Rupert Murdoch and the board that includes two of his sons, should be held responsible for damage
Mark Lewis, the lawyer who has led the attack on hacking cases in the UK, has teamed with two New York law firms to represent at least four people, including one U.S. citizen, who may have had their privacy violated here by Rupert Murdoch-owned properties. If they decide to pursue the matter “I believe it will be taken seriously” by U.S. courts, one of the lawyers — Norman Siegel of Siegel Teitelbaum & Evans — said in a meeting with reporters today. ”These are serious issues.” Steven Hyman of McLaughlin & Stern is co-counsel. Lewis says the clients believe that their phones were hacked on U.S. soil between 2001 and 2006, and are named in notes of Glenn Mulcaire, the UK private investigator who cracked into people’s voicemail accounts for the Murdoch tabloid News Of The World. While the lawyers wouldn’t go into detail about their clients or plans, Lewis says that having U.S. lawyers may make it easier to question News Corp deputy COO James Murdoch, who recently moved to New York. “It becomes relevant to all sorts of issues,” he says. Lewis adds that none of the U.S. clients have cases in the UK that might be compromised by actions here.
BSkyB is now James Murdoch‘s lone remaining board membership after auction house Sotheby’s revealed in an SEC filing that News Corp‘s deputy COO won’t seek re-election to its board of directors. The filing, which said Murdoch will “focus on his core responsibilities” at News Corp, is the latest fall-out from the phone-hacking scandal that has engulfed the conglomerate in the UK since it broke open in July. Murdoch this year has also stepped down from his post atop News Corp’s UK newspaper division News International and departed the board at ClaxoSmithKline.
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.”
EXCLUSIVE: I’ve learned that Scotland Yard has informed Hollywood music agent Julie Colbert that her cell phone calls were intercepted because she represented Welsh pop star Charlotte Church. The WME tenpercenter who works for music clients in film and television was back and forth between Los Angeles and London when the hacking occurred, my insiders say. That’s because, at the time, Church was working closely with the crossover agent and even staying as a guest in Colbert’s home for several months to get away from the paparazzi constantly trailing the singing sensation. ”Scotland Yard told Julie, ‘Your number came up as one of the ones that was hacked,” an insider tells me. I understand that Colbert hasn’t decided yet whether to file a claim because of the hacking. That might prove touchy because her agency William Morris Endeavor Entertainment does a lot of business with News Corp subsidiaries like Fox Broadcasting, Twentieth Fox TV, and the Fox Filmed Entertainment Group.
No information was provided Colbert exactly who did the hacking: News Corp’s journalists or private detectives. But Bloomberg reported earlier today that Glenn Mulcaire, the former News Corp private detective who hacked phones for the company’s News Of The World, had an unidentified WME agent’s numbers as well as Charlotte Church’s New York publicist Kevin Chiaramonte of Paul Freundlich Associates among thousands of pages of notes seized by police. That agent, I’ve learned, was Colbert.
The News Corp chief sought to reassure journalists at The Sun today by announcing his plan to launch a Sunday edition of the UK tabloid — and by offering to help the staffers who were arrested last weekend for allegedly paying cops for tips and information. “We are doing everything we can to assist those who were arrested — all suspensions are hereby lifted until or whether charged and they are welcome to return to work,” he said in a letter to employees. “News Corporation will cover their legal expenses. Everyone is innocent unless proven otherwise.” He added, though, that the company also will cooperate with a police investigation into the scandal and “will turn over every piece of evidence we find — not just because we are obligated to but because it is the right thing to do.” Sun staffers were prepared to revolt after learning that News Corp had provided police with evidence that led to the arrests. The paper’s Trevor Kavanagh likened the police actions to a “witch-hunt” and added in a column that “some of the greatest legends in Fleet Street have been held, at least on the basis of evidence so far revealed, for simply doing their jobs as journalists on behalf of the company.” Here’s Murdoch’s letter: