Saturday, 28 January 2012

James Murdoch / hacking round-up

Anyone who thought that the big events in the hacking scandal were behind us has probably had a shock in the past week or so.

Yesterday saw GSK announce that James Murdoch won't be standing for re-election at the company's forthcoming AGM. The official line is that this is because his move to the US means he needs to focus attention elsewhere. Maybe, but it's worth noting that just before Xmas the CtW Investment Group (US union shareholder activists) wrote to the company saying he should come off the board. It appears other investors may have queried his position there too.

This morning has seen a string of arrests as part of Operation Elveden. This is the police investigation looking into illegal payments to police. The Telegraph names the people arrested here, and, most importantly, the journos involved are current and former employees of The Sun. Notably one of those named worked closely with Rebekah Brooks. Those interested in this issue might also want to take a look at what the current Sun editor told the Leveson Inquiry about whether any illegal payments had been made to police.

Going back to last week, and there have, of course, been some settlements relating to phone-hacking. Again there are some important details in the mix. First, the claimants alleged that directors at NGN (the bit of News Intl that published NoTW) were aware of illegal activity, misled investigators and destroyed evidence. Secondly, there was an important allegation relating to email hacking (Harold Shipman's sun). (Separately, again in evidence to Leveson, it has been admitted that in one case The Times ran a story that was stood up by hacking someone's email account). As many people will know, the gossip is that computer hacking could be story of 2012, so these could be the first chinks in News Corp's armour on this front.

Looking ahead, obviously there is a lot of focus on the DCMS committee report. It would be interesting to know whether the pre-xmas email evidence relating to James Murdoch's knowledge has affected opinion on the committee. Also, it's worth remembering that Murdoch was asked specifically (by Tom Watson I think) whether he was aware of any allegations of computer hacking. He said no. So when did News Corp become aware of the claims relating to Shipman and the case involving The Times?

Finally, obviously GSK wasn't the only non-family business where James Murdoch is a director. He is also on the Sotheby's board. Expect to see more attention focused there in the coming months, not least, no doubt, by the US unions.

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