Hackgate: A Pattern of Criminal Behaviour
Yes, the Murdoch story may be flying under the mainstream media radar, but with three British police investigations ongoing, two Parliamentary committees, a televised public enquiry with full powers of subpoena starting tomorrow, a DOJ enquiry stateside, and other investigations and legal cases in the US, Australia and Italy into Newscorp anti-competitive and/or criminal behaviour, this is not about to go away any time soon.
As an early indication of this, it has just been announced that over sixty separate claims (some filed in multiple names) have been filed in the UK civil claims court against News International: these include dozens of celebrities and prominent politicians, but also the families or partners of murder victims, or casualties of other high profile incidents such as the 7/7 London bombings.
These weren’t people who thrust themselves into the limelight – but people who had already been violated by some awful event, only to have their own privacy violated by illegal means by a company whose only interest was profit and using press exposure to exert political power.
According to The Guardian
The overwhelming majority of the writs have been issued jointly against News Group Newspapers, the News International subsidiary that published the now defunct News of the World, and Glenn Mulcaire, the private investigator who worked under contract for the Sunday tabloid.
However, one – by singer Cornelia Crisan – also names the former News of the World chief reporter, Neville Thurlbeck, and another of the paper’s former reporters as defendants in her claim.
It is the first phone-hacking lawsuit to target Thurlbeck. He was arrested and bailed in April for alleged phone hacking but has not been charged. He is suing News International for unfair dismissal.
Thurlbeck said: “As I said last week, the truth will out. But this will be in the law courts and at a public tribunal.”
The number and range of the claims has taken some legal observers by surprise. One source said it suggests that News International’s £20m contingency fund to deal with legal claims will not be anywhere near enough to cover the final total.
Now this is all based on the files of Glynn Mulcaire, but as the Mark Lewis, the lawyer who broke the current storm with news of the hacking of the phone of Milly Dowler (a teenage murder victims) explains:
“So far, fewer than 5% of the victims of Glenn Mulcaire have been notified,” said Mark Lewis, a lawyer for some phone-hacking victims in an email.
“He was just one agent used by one paper. When the final tally takes place, we will see thousands of claims and more than one paper.”
Mr. Lewis said that, as the number of plaintiffs grows, his own estimate that the New York-based company would need at least £100-million to settle such claims looks like “a serious underestimate.” News Group agreed to pay one of Mr. Lewis’s clients, the family of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler, £3-million, a person familiar with the matter said last month.
Mr. Lewis said that the rash of suits may have been triggered by a deadline set by Judge Geoffrey Vos to consider claims ahead of a January trial to determine how much News Corp. should pay in damages to five of the victims.
So this is just phone hacking, and just the UK. But let’s be clear. This is still just the tip of the iceberg. .
RICO: A Pattern of Criminal and Anti Competitive Behaviour
Now we know that financially, Newscorp has paid much more than $200 million in the past to settle lawsuits, and indeed has paid out three times as much as that to settle various lawsuits against its profitable marketing division, News America. Apart from the hacking allegations and the FCPA violations (suborning foreign officials) there is now ample evidence, in the US and elsewhere (cf Italy and Australia) that Newscorp has a standard modus operandi when dealing with the ‘free market’.
1. Establish leverage over politicians to change anti monopoly legislation
2. Dumping – artificially lowered prices to destroy competitors (cf News America, London Times)
3. Industrial espionage against competitors using a variety of means (Floorgraphics, Daily Mirror etc.)
For those following this story in Newscorp’s home country, the US, there is now ample evidence of a sustained pattern of behavior liable to a RICO violation.
My firm belief is that the heart of this problem is an abuse of power which comes from a monopoly position in cross platform ownership. It is at it’s worst in Australia, only marginally better in the UK, but the US is where both the power lies, economically and politically, and where Murdoch’s combination of tabloid blackmail, highly leveraged acquisitions (Miliken is a good friend of his) and ultimate commercial and political power ultimately resides.
And it’s only there he will be defeated. So keep digging. Keeping on adding your own comments and sources. Just like the Wall Street occupations, this is an example whete the power elites can be held to account: by occupying their channels of communication and spin.