November 29, 2020

Murdoch Faces Questions, but Gains Vocal Support

But he did receive one piece of good news: vocal support from a prominent board member.

Tom Perkins, an independent member of the board of directors and the first to speak out on the scandal, said the board “is fully supportive of the top management.”

A well-known venture capitalist in Silicon Valley, Mr. Perkins said the independent board members “were stunned to discover the magnitude of the scandal over the last 10 days.”

“The board did discuss this several times two or three years ago, maybe earlier,” he said. “We’ve known about the phone hacking for a long time. We were told and top management, I’m sure, believed that the early news was the whole story. There’s no reason to believe top management was lying. That’s my very strong belief.”

“We all felt it was inexcusable for sure. We paid some money out, fired some people and we thought we’d fixed it.”

Mr. Perkins was also a member of the board of directors during a scandal at Hewlett-Packard, when the high-tech giant was involved in spying on board members and reporters to determine the source of leaked information. Mr. Perkins resigned from the board when he learned of the surveillance.

He said the News Corporation situation is different. “This is not like the HP situation,” he said. “The board supports top management.”

The hacking group Lulz Security claimed responsibility on Monday for a fake article about the death of Mr. Murdoch, the chairman of News Corporation, that appeared on one of the company’s Web sites, and for disruptions on other sites. The article was posted on the Web site new-times.co.uk, which appeared to be a defunct site related to The Times of London.

Lulz Security, or LulzSec, then apparently altered the Web site of The Sun, another Murdoch newspaper, so that it sent site visitors to the fake article. Soon after, the Sun site instead forwarded visitors to the LulzSec Twitter page.

The e-mail at The Times of London was also hacked into, a staff member said, leaving it nonfunctional on Monday evening.

Mr. Murdoch’s more immediate concern is Tuesday’s hearing. He spent much of Monday working on his opening statement at News International’s headquarters in Wapping, East London. A team of lawyers that works for the company, led by Joel I. Klein, a News Corporation senior vice president, was on hand to help him and his son, James, prepare.

They will be grilled in the Wilson Room of Portcullis House, adjacent to the British Parliament, along with Rebekah Brooks, the former chief executive of News International, who resigned on Friday and was arrested on Sunday, although no charges have been filed. The room will seat just 40 to 50 spectators, although interest is judged so large that Parliament is opening spillover rooms where others can follow the proceedings on television — as surely will much of Britain, and beyond.

The 10 members of the House of Commons select committee on culture, media and sport, drawn from the three main political parties in the British Parliament, will have agreed on lines of questioning. The demands are likely to come rapid fire, given that there will be only an hour for this rarest of events. In British parliamentary hearings, the witnesses do not testify under oath. Instead, they are obliged to answer “on their honor.”

If they are found to have lied, not even well-informed media lawyers could predict the consequences: they would earn the contempt of Parliament. It is not clear what the punishment, beyond opprobrium, would be.

The witnesses can choose not to answer — in American terms, plead the Fifth — if they judge their comments could be self-incriminating. The three will most likely appear with their lawyers, to whom they can turn for whispered advice.

The committee members to watch — those members of Parliament who have most aggressively denounced the phone hacking in the past — include Labour members Paul Farrelly and Tom Watson and the chairman, John Whittingdale, a Conservative. The committee’s clerks will have prepared many of the specific questions — they will be on green sheets of paper before the members — but the most combative members are likely to go off script.

Graham Bowley reported from London, and Matt Richtel from San Francisco. Jeremy W. Peters, Michael Luo and Nick Bilton contributed reporting from New York.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/19/world/europe/19murdochs.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

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