November 24, 2020

Pressure on James Murdoch Is About to Intensify

LONDON — After his testimony in Parliament was challenged by two former senior employees and referred by a lawmaker to Scotland Yard for investigation, James Murdoch has come under rising pressure in Britain’s phone hacking scandal that is likely to intensify this week.

The board of British Sky Broadcasting, the satellite broadcaster of which Mr. Murdoch is chairman, convenes on Thursday for the first time since the scandal erupted, as regulators continue their inquiry into whether the hacking scandal means the broadcaster should continue to be considered “fit and proper” to hold a broadcasting license. A day later, members of the parliamentary committee investigating the scandal are to meet to consider whether to ask for more information from Mr. Murdoch and whether to call him and former executives back in front of them to answer additional questions.

Some former senior executives of News International who until recently held powerful positions in the News Corporation’s British subsidiary and were privy to internal deliberations have indicated that they believe Mr. Murdoch knew more about widespread phone hacking at The News of the World than he indicated in his public testimony. If they continue to challenge Mr. Murdoch’s account, it could damage his effort to protect his own reputation and that of the parent company run by his father, Rupert.

“It now seems to be everyone for themselves,” said Paul Farrelly, a Labour member of Parliament who has been a prominent critic of News International. “The edifice is cracking; they’re all fighting like rats in a sack.”

Last week, the two former executives, Colin Myler, who was editor of The News of the World until it closed this month, and Tom Crone, the former legal manager for News International, accused him of making “mistaken” statements to Parliament in his testimony on Tuesday.

A third, Jon Chapman, News International’s director of legal affairs until this month, said in a statement last week he was also preparing to cooperate fully with the Parliament investigation and wanted to correct “serious inaccuracies” in the evidence given by Mr. Murdoch to lawmakers. Mr. Murdoch issued a statement insisting he stood by his remarks.

Mr. Murdoch could also face a challenge from another source, according to several lawyers and executives with knowledge of the proceedings. The source is an outside attorney who was also privy to discussions surrounding a confidential settlement to a phone hacking victim in 2008, which Mr. Murdoch approved, according to several lawyers with knowledge of the proceedings.

Mr. Murdoch said he had relied on “outside counsel” in settling that case.

One of the lawyers providing outside counsel was Julian Pike, a partner of the London firm Farrer Company, the queen’s lawyers. Mr. Pike, who is on sabbatical until Sept. 5, was at times directly engaged in discussions with the lawyers for the soccer union leader Gordon Taylor, who was the first victim of phone hacking to sue News International, the lawyers and executives said.

File notes that Mr. Pike took of his internal discussions with News International executives during 2008 could be pursued by Scotland Yard as part of a criminal inquiry, said two officials with knowledge of the police inquiry.

“So far, it’s two against one,” said a lawyer with first-hand knowledge of the proceedings who spoke on the condition of anonymity, referring to Mr. Crone’s and Mr. Myler’s word about the negotiations against Mr. Murdoch. “But if two more lawyers step forward to contradict Mr. Murdoch’s evidence, it would raise even more profound questions.”

Mr. Pike and several of his assistants did not return repeated messages asking for comment. News International would not comment on whether it was prepared to lift client confidentiality restrictions on Mr. Pike or Farrer Company, as it has with another outside law firm used, so they could speak to the police and Parliament.

Mr. Murdoch told the committee that he relied on the advice of “outside counsel” when he agreed to settle the case brought by Mr. Taylor for £725,000, which was then about $1.4 million, a settlement that was far beyond what privacy violation cases were being settled for at the time. Most were being settled for £3,000 to £12,000, lawyers with knowledge of such cases said.

In Mr. Taylor’s case, The News of the World did not even publish a story about him based on the information gleaned from hacked messages, lawyers have said.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/25/world/europe/25hacking.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

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