Tuesday, 1 May 2012

A few thoughts on the hacking report

So, it's finally out, and pretty bad for News Corp all things considered. As expected, Crone and Myler take a lot of the flak but, aside from the headline stuff about Murdoch Senior, the accusation that Les Hinton misled Parliament is significant. Hinton was one of Rupert's key men, and a friend of decades. If the committee - the whole committee - believes that Hinton knew, this surely raises the probability that Rupert knew too.

The report talks tough on a lot of issues, portraying some of the pay-offs to key people as attempts to buy silence, and the language of a "cover-up" is sprinkled throughout. This is important. Because whilst there is a minor row about political divisions (more below) the large body of the analysis is shared by all parties - there was a cover-up, Parliament was misled by senior News International staff, James Murdoch's innocence is unproven, News International and News Corp governance was "not effective" (understatement!). These things matter because as we know from experience News Corp will seek to magnify any shred of doubt to obscure the much bigger story - a large-scale corporate scandal and cover-up staged over many years.

On the politics of the report I clearly am likely to be biased, but I do think the report as published is right. Two of three parties represented on the committee, and two thirds of its members agreed with the line about Rupert Murdoch not being fit to run a major international company. And the partisan charge can equally be directed at the Tories who decided not to endorse the tough language on Murdoch. There is a valid claim that the committee's remit was not to look at 'fit and proper' type issues. But there was also the danger that this was an important opportunity to hold to account the senior executives of a company that lost its way.

Bear in mind that News Corp got very, very close to taking control of BSkyB (perhaps with the connivance of the culture secretary). Remember that the company put its political enemies under surveillance, and used its public platform to attack them ruthlessly (go back and read that News of the Screws editorial on the first hacking report - blatant lies). Despite widespread illegal activity, lying to Parliament, tailing 'problem' MPs and lawyers, they very nearly got away with it. If the committee had not sought to tie all this to the senior execs at the company the likelihood they would have escaped. Now there is at least a chance they will face further action. That is surely only right given what has happened. 

Shareholders now have reason to go back to both News Corp and BSkyB and seek further reform. I do not underestimate the likelihood that some asset managers will claim the report is 'partisan' or 'political' because they are uncomfortable making value judgments about directors. But seriously, if you don't think that this report should make you question the suitability of Rupert and James Murdoch as directors, who do you think isn't suitable?

1 comment:

www.greenworldbvi.com said...

It is about time someone held Murdoch firmly and clearly to account, so I'm quite pleased with the report and the headlines about Murdoch being unfit. Its like the stuff with the pedophile priests in Ireland - long ignored and finally addressed openly at the highest level including the Irish PM telling to Vatican to go bugger off. It really seems like Mr. Murdoch has for too long influenced policy and politics in this country in an almost tyrannical way (as alluded to in the post), so fantastic that he got his comeuppance as far as I'm concerned.
bamboo investment