News Corp. letters contradicting James Murdoch testimony


The News Corp. investigation got more complicated 8/16 from written evidence submitted to the U.K. Parliament’s Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee suggesting voice-mail hacking was widely discussed at its News of the World tabloid. One letter accuses former News of the World editor Andy Coulson and senior editors of being in full knowledge of phone hacking as far back as 2006. Coulson later resigned and then became U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron’s top communications adviser. Coulson resigned from that post earlier this year.

Other letters showed several former execs contradicting recent testimony by Deputy COO James Murdoch. The Committee released written statements from Murdoch, several former top executives and a law firm that was retained by News Corp.’s U.K. newspaper division News International.

The whole thing raises new questions of how long top company officials knew about wrongdoing at the tabloid and whether they misled parliament in saying there was no evidence tactics were widespread.

One new claim comes in a 2007 letter—submitted to the committee by onetime News Corp. law firm Harbottle & Lewis LLP—from Clive Goodman, the former News of the World royal correspondent who had been jailed for phone-hacking. As part of a wrongful-dismissal appeal against News International, Goodman alleged that other employees at the tabloid engaged in or knew about similar practices.

“Other members of the staff were carrying out the same illegal procedures,” Goodman said in his letter to Daniel Cloke, then head of human resources at News International. “This practice was widely discussed in the daily editorial conference, until explicit reference to it was banned by the Editor (Coulson).”

In his March, 2007, letter, Goodman also said that he was told by Coulson he could have his job back at the paper if he didn’t implicate anyone else at the tabloid when he pleaded guilty to phone hacking in 2006, reported The Wall Street Journal. “I did not, and I expect the paper to honor its promise to me,” Goodman said.

Les Hinton, who was then the executive chairman of News International and later became Dow Jones & Co. CEO, was copied in on the letter. Hinton, who resigned the Dow Jones post last month, has long contended he was unaware that wrongdoing at News of the World went beyond Goodman’s crimes.

“We recognize the seriousness of materials disclosed to the police and parliament and are committed to working in a constructive and open way with all the relevant authorities,” News International said in a statement after the letters were disclosed.

The Committee said on 8/16 that the written evidence would now lead to a new round of hearings examining the matter. James Murdoch is likely to be recalled to Parliament to explain what he knew about the phone-hacking scandal at News of the World.

And to add more fuel to the fire, former News of the World editor Colin Myler and legal manager Tom Crone said they informed James Murdoch in 2008 of an email which suggested that the phone-hacking scandal at the News of the World likely involved more than one of the tabloid’s reporters. The company maintains just one journalist had been involved.

Murdoch told the Committee last month that he hadn’t seen that email in spring 2008. In his own reply to the Committee, Murdoch stood by his previous statement that he didn’t know about the evidence in question, which related to the company’s plan to settle a lawsuit brought by Gordon Taylor, a football official who sued the company for hacking into his cellphone voice mails.

A key piece of evidence in that case was a June 2005 email containing a transcript of 35 hacked voice-mail messages from Taylor’s phone. According to the email, the transcript was intended “for Neville,” News of the World’s chief reporter, Neville Thurlbeck.

Murdoch said Crone and Myler briefed him on the case during a meeting in June, 2008. He said he doesn’t recall receiving any briefing before this date, and doesn’t recall either Crone or Myler showing him any documents during the meeting. He said the execs recommended settling the case because there was evidence that Glenn Mulcaire, a private investigator, had carried out this interception on behalf of the News of the World.