Whew! This has been an exhausting weekend of revelations and arrests as the Hackgate scandal at News of the World has spread, via an email hacking scandal at The Times, to the arrest of ten journalists, many of them senior, at Britain’s most popular paper, The Sun.
Without doubt, from the multiple angry responses from NI journalists, the British arm of Newscorp is now at war with its corporate masters in the News Corp headquarters in New York. The latter are in charge of the 100 plus lawyers at the Management and Services Committee which is directly co-operating with 161 officers in the Met Operations Weeting, Tuleta and Elveden engaged in investigating phone, email hacking and bribery of state officials. It’s the latter which are behind the recent spate of arrests, and directly threatens the News Corp base with the threat of prosecution under FCPA violations.
I haven’t got long because all these developments have to be incorporated in my book with Eric Lewis, Bad Press: Fall of the House of Murdoch. But in short the DOJ, the FBI and the SEC have all been investigating News Corp since the summer. Mark Lewis, the sterling lawyer for the hacking victims is heading to New York this week to launch civil claims on this basis. In the meantime it’s the FCPA violations which could land senior News Corp Executives in the dock.
There are so many sources on this, from Reuters, the NYT, even the WSJ, I’m just going to link to the most recent: Ed Pilkington on the US Guardian site:
News Corp executives at risk of US prosecution for ‘willful blindness’
The perils to News Corp of an FCPA prosecution in the US against the company and its executives was underlined by the revelation that a grand jury has been convened in the case of Avon Products. The Wall Street Journal reported that US authorities are probing an internal audit report compiled in 2005 that found that Avon employees had bribed officials in China, yet the company only launched an official inquiry into possible violations three years later.
In the Avon case, the grand jury is likely to be asked to consider whether executives were culpable under the “willful blindness” provision of the FCPA.
Professor John Coffee, a specialist in white-collar crime at Columbia law school in New York, said that executives were at risk of prosecution in cases where they failed to ask relevant questions about a suspicious persistent pattern of payments. He gave the metaphorical example of a driver used by a Mexican drugs cartel to transport cocaine across the border who was aware that the vehicle contained a secret storage panel but made no attempt to find out what packages had been placed inside.
As part of its response to the billowing phone hacking scandal, News Corp has amassed the most formidable team of FCPA lawyers ever assembled. “They have appointed not just one of the best lawyers in this field, they have appointed most of the best lawyers,” Coffee said.
“That’s not normal defensive strategy,” he added.
And in other ‘news’ (I use the term lightly in the Fox news sense), there are rumours that the government scientist David Kelly, who committed suicide after the Iraq invasion over allegations of sexing up WMD threat, could have been a hacking victim. Michael Wolff, Murdoch’s official biographer speculates that James could be arrested this week. And dozens of tabloid journalists, more than happy to see others arrested in dawn raids or suffer trial by media, are whining loudly, in a liberal way, about human rights, due process, and innocent before being proven guilty.
Sweet is it in this dawn to be alive.