December 3, 2020

Ex-Executives Dispute Testimony of Murdoch Son

The former executives said they informed Mr. Murdoch at the time that he was authorizing an unusually large secret settlement of a lawsuit brought by a hacking victim.

Mr. Murdoch, who runs the News Corporation’s European and Asian operations, including News International, the British subsidiary, told the committee on Tuesday that he agreed to pay £725,000, which was then about $1.4 million, in the case because it made financial sense. He testified that he was not aware at the time of the evidence, which most likely would have become public had the case proceeded and undermined the company’s assertion that hacking was limited to “a lone rogue reporter.”

But Colin Myler, the former editor of the tabloid, The News of the World, and Tom Crone, the former News International legal manager, said Mr. Murdoch was “mistaken” in his testimony delivered to the parliamentary committee. They said he knew when settling the lawsuit brought by a soccer union leader, Gordon Taylor, about a crucial piece of evidence that had been turned over to the company: an e-mail marked “for Neville” containing the transcript of a hacked cellphone message, apparently a reference to the paper’s chief reporter, Neville Thurlbeck.

“In fact, we did inform him of the ‘for Neville’ e-mail which had been produced to us by Gordon Taylor’s lawyers,” Mr. Myler and Mr. Crone said in the statement released Thursday night.

The circumstances surrounding the settlement of the Taylor case are a focus of the parliamentary inquiry because they could shed light on whether there was an effort by News International to obscure the extent of the hacking. It was the first lawsuit brought by a hacking victim, and it came while the company, which owned the tabloid, was reeling from the 2007 guilty pleas of Clive Goodman, the paper’s royal reporter, and Glenn Mulcaire, a private investigator, for hacking the phones of the royal household.

Mr. Myler and Mr. Crone’s statement seems to mark a round of finger-pointing, coming days after the testimony of Mr. Murdoch and his father, Rupert, the News Corporation chairman, who testified that he was not to blame for the hacking and was let down by people he trusted.

Mr. Myler and Mr. Crone spoke out because they were angered that the company was telling reporters that they had failed to tell James Murdoch about critical facts in the civil lawsuit, three executives said in interviews. In a statement, Mr. Murdoch said, “I stand by my testimony to the select committee.”

On Tuesday, Mr. Murdoch also told the committee that he “did not get involved in any of the negotiations directly” and that the settlement seemed reasonable at the time. Beyond Mr. Myler and Mr. Crone, other News International executives, as well as members of Mr. Taylor’s legal team, painted a picture of Mr. Murdoch as being quite engaged in keeping the case from going to trial. They say that the size of the settlement he authorized reflected that.

In July 2008, News International’s chief financial officer, Clive Milner, was asked to endorse a check for £725,000. He was not told what it was for — only that “the check is for James Murdoch,” according to a company official with direct knowledge of the matter and an account Mr. Milner has shared with friends.

The negotiations were so tightly held that only Mr. Crone, Mr. Myler and Mr. Murdoch knew about them, said two company officials. The officials said that even employees who were typically involved in legal decisions did not learn of the settlement until it leaked in a newspaper.

“I was gobsmacked” at the amount, said one of them.

Ravi Somaiya contributed reporting.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/22/world/europe/22murdoch.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

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