Confirming his tentative ruling from February, a federal judge has formally dismissed the U.S.-based phone-hacking scandal suit against News Corp filed last June by a stunt double for Angelina Jolie. “The underlying facts here do not seem to be in dispute, at least by these parties. It appears, and certainly is alleged, that Plaintiff Eunice Huthart has suffered a grotesque invasion of her privacy,” said Judge Michael Fitzgerald this week, granting the dismissal motion by the media giant in the first and only American-based suit in the wide-reaching scandal. “Nonetheless … the Court concludes that Huthart must obtain her relief from the courts of England and Wales,” he added in the order (read it here) filed Wednesday. Despite attempts by Huthart in March to keep the case in the U.S. with an argument that a move to the British courts would be the “litigation equivalent of purgatory,” this latest order is almost verbatim what the judge said in his tentative ruling in February.
Related: Rebekah Brooks Cleared Of One Charge As Defense Begins
In her initial complaint filed on June 13, 2013, the England-born Huthart — whose most recent gig was as a stunt coordinator on Disney’s upcoming Maleficent starring Jolie — claimed her cell phone was hacked in 2004 while staying in the U.S. and working with Jolie on Mr. And Mrs. Smith. Her fears turned out to be correct when Huthart’s name and phone number later turned up in the notes of Glenn Mulcaire, the jailed P.I. who worked for the now-shuttered Rupert Murdoch tabloid News Of The World. That hacking seems to be connected to a number of stories about the early days of Jolie’s relationship with her Smith co-star Brad Pitt. Read More »
Avon Pension Fund and others who owned News Corp stock from mid-February to mid-July 2011 charged in the class action suit that Rupert Murdoch, James Murdoch, former News Of The World editor Rebekah Brooks, and other execs at News Corp (before it split into two companies) committed fraud when the UK hacking scandal was unfolding. They told the public — including in testimony at Parliament — that it was just an isolated problem, and it wasn’t. When the widespread extent of the hacking became known in mid-2011, News Corp shares fell 17%, and it derailed the company’s plan to buy British Sky Broadcasting. But a U.S. District Court in New York dismissed the case today, Reuters reports. The problem? Judge Paul Gardephe said that the News Corp execs couldn’t be held liable for statements made before the period when the plaintiffs said that they lost money.”To hold otherwise would require adopting an ‘endless breach argument,’ which would permit plaintiffs to circumvent the well-settled rule that defendants are liable only for those statements made during the class period,” Gardephe says.
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 on the company’s motion to dismiss, Judge Michael Fitzgerald said in a tentative ruling that Eunice Huthart‘s case belonged in “the courts of England and Wales” not the U.S.
Alleging that her phone was tampered with in 2004 while living with Jolie in L.A., Huthart’s initial complaint on June 13 was the first hacking scandal suit filed against News Corp and its UK Press arm in the U.S. Back in September of last year, News Corp and News International filed their motion to toss the case or have it move to Britain. After issuing his tentative and hearing arguments from lawyers representing the English-born stuntwoman and the media corporation, Judge Fitzgerald said he would take the matter under submission (read it here). Though it happens, it is very unusual for a judge to reverse himself after issuing such a clear tentative.
Related: Phone-Hacking Trial – Rebekah Brooks Cleared Of One Charge As Defense Begins
As has proven the case in many of the suits in the on-going hacking-scandal, the longtime ex-Jolie stuntwoman’s allegations are years old. Huthart, whose most recent gig … Read 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. Read More »
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.
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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. Read 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
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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.
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Rupert Murdoch and his son James Murdoch want an American class action lawsuit against them and News International over the UK phone hacking scandal dismissed. Not because they may have acted badly but, in a motion (read it here) filed late last week, because they believe they didn’t break the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. “Even if plaintiffs disagree about how the misconduct at News of the World was handled, their claims sound in mismanagement, which does not as a matter of law state a securities fraud claim,” the Murdoch’s motion says. “It is well-settled that a plaintiff cannot bootstrap mismanagement claims into a federal securities law action.”
Rebekah Brooks Wants out of U.S. Phone Hacking Lawsuit
News Corp Details Proposed Separation of Businesses; Entertainment Company To Be Called Fox Group; The Daily To Cease
In a suit filed on July 19, 2011, New Corp shareholder Lewis Wilder claimed that the Murdochs, as well as other New International executives like former CEO Rebekah Brooks, violated the 1934 Act by hiding the “existence and extent of illegal and unethical newsgathering practices” at the News Corp-owned company’s British tabloids. The dates in question that the securities fraud occurred were from February 15, 2011 to July 18, 2011. The Avon Pension Fund and the Iron Workers Local Union No. 17 Pension Fund later joined Wilder in the suit. The shareholders claim that revelations of the hacking scandal smacked … Read More »
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.
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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 Read More »
Because of the phone-hacking and bribery scandal plaguing News Corp’s British newspaper publishing subsidiary, a public interest group has filed a petition asking the Federal Communications Commission to deny broadcast license renewal to three Fox TV stations. Licenses of the three Fox Broadcasting Co. owned-and-operated stations are scheduled to expire in October. The stations are WTTG and WDCA in Washington, D.C., and WUTB in Baltimore. The Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed its petition today, and you can read it here. The group calls for a public hearing to determine whether Fox, a U.S. subsidiary of News Corp, should remain a licensee. The interest group in May petitioned the FCC to revoke all 27 of Fox’s broadcast licenses, but the FCC has not responded. The agency has given no indications that it has any intention of looking into whether News Corp.’s problems in Great Britain are relevant to its U.S. TV businesses. CREW’s argument is based partly on a clause in the Communications Act that licenses can be technically revoked over character issues involving station ownership. Most communications attorneys believe it’s extremely unlikely the FCC will revoke Fox’s U.S. licenses. It is extremely rare for a TV station to have its licence revoked.
Hundreds Of Alleged VIP Phone-Hacking Victims To Be Named: UK Independent
Rupert Murdoch Resigns As Director Of News International
James Murdoch Completes His Exit From News Corp’s UK Newspaper Operations
The News International British publishing subsidiary acknowledged today that the company is aware that London police are considering whether to file charges against its board over phone hacking at the shuttered News of the World tabloid, Bloomberg reported. Prosecutors are advising the Metropolitan Police Service on possible corporate offenses. News International said deputy assistant police commissioner Sue Akers, who is leading the probe, had referred to possible corporate offenses but also “that she agreed that the current senior management and corporate approach at News International has been to assist and come clean,” News International said in a statement. Some 60 people have been arrested so far including former News International CEO Rebekah Brooks and News of the World editor Andy Coulson, who later served as an adviser to U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron. Even if company officers could face criminal charges, prosecutors would have to prove that anyone charged was aware of wrongdoing.
Rupert Murdoch Resigns As Director Of News International
James Murdoch Completes His Exit From News Corp’s UK Newspaper Operations
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.
Murdochs To Give Evidence In U.K. Media Ethics Review Next Week
News Corp “Toxic Institution”, UK Lawmaker Says In New Book Read More »
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. Read More »
When Harry Potter author JK Rowling gave evidence to the Leveson Inquiry into UK media ethics last November, she called the Press Complaints Commission “toothless.” Now, the British newspaper watchdog is to be formally defanged as it moves to shut down. The org has faced continuing criticism over the past several months, largely for what many consider an inadequate investigation into the phone-hacking scandal at the now-defunct News Of The World. The PCC has handled complaints about the editorial content of newspapers and magazines in the UK for 21 years, but will quickly wind down operations with a transitional body overseeing press regulation until a new system is established. More details are expected to emerge in the next six weeks. When the decision was made in principle to shutter the PCC last month, chairman Lord Hunt said, “We’re very much now on the front foot and listening to all sides and determined to bring forward the sort of independent self-regulatory structure that everyone will approve of.”
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 »
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. Read More »
It’s the latest and potentially most high-profile lawsuit yet to come out of the UK phone-hacking scandal that has engulfed News Corp’s British newspapers. The company has already settled more than 50 lawsuits related to probes that uncovered the widespread hacking of celebrities’ and political figures’ voicemails by News Of The World journalists — and officials think the number of victims is much higher. But Cherie Blair’s suit, filed yesterday against News Corp’s News International unit and convicted hacker Glenn Mulcaire, could shine a spotlight onto just how high the illicit practices might have gone; already, News Corp settled claims by then-Prime Minister Tony Blair’s former press chief and Deputy PM. “If it is true that a former prime minister’s family have been targeted by Rupert Murdoch’s hackers, then it is clearly a significant moment in the scandal,” said Labour Party MP Tom Watson, a vocal leader of a parliamentary committee investigating the scandal, wrote in an e-mail to Bloomberg. The scandal has resulted in several different investigations, and most recently eight journalists at Murdoch’s The Sun newspaper were arrested and suspended for their alleged roles in bribing police officials. Murdoch lifted that ban last week and announced The Sun would launch a Sunday edition to replace News Of The World’s now-defunct Sunday tabloid. It debuts this week.