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Phone-Hack Lawyer Says Murdoch Career in Peril

Mark Lewis, the lawyer representing dozens of News of the World phone-hacking victims, said testimony by former News Corp. (NWSA) executives to the U.K. Parliament today may determine if James Murdoch lied about the scandal.

Statements by Tom Crone, an ex-legal manager at News Corp.’s U.K. newspaper unit, will be particularly important since he contradicted the July testimony by Murdoch, News Corp.’s deputy chief operating officer, before the same committee, Lewis said in a Bloomberg Television interview.

“The hearing could be damaging for James -- it could effectively finish his career,” said Lewis, who negotiated the first hacking settlement from News International in 2008 and now represents more than 70 suspected victims.

At least fifteen people have been arrested since revelations that the News of the World intercepted voice mails for murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler, whose family has hired Lewis. Public outcry over the development in the five-year-old scandal prompted News Corp. to shutter the tabloid and withdraw a 7.8 billion-pound ($12.6 billion) takeover bid for British Sky Broadcasting Group Plc. (BSY)

Politicians will need to “get to the bottom” of the disparity between Crone’s and Murdoch’s version of events surrounding News International’s 2008 settlement agreement with hacking victim Gordon Taylor, Lewis said. Murdoch said he wasn’t told about an internal e-mail suggesting hacking may have been more widespread than originally suspected. Crone told lawmakers in a letter that Murdoch knew of the e-mail.

‘A Lie’

“The story that’s being told by Tom Crone is seemingly different than the story being told by James Murdoch,” Lewis said. “One of them is a lie.”

Executives may also have to explain why News International used private investigators to gather information about him and other lawyers representing hacking victims, said Lewis, of Taylor Hampton Solicitors Ltd. News Corp. has said no current executives approved such action.

“If it’s true that News International has been hiring investigators, a lot of questions about why it was done -- why it was done so recently -- that will be something to ask James Murdoch if he is called back,” said Niri Shan, the head of media law at Taylor Wessing LLP in London.

Colin Myler, editor of the tabloid until New York-based News Corp. shut it in July, will also be questioned. He challenged the accuracy of James Murdoch’s testimony that his underlings were responsible for ethical lapses.

Jailed for Hacking

Lawmakers will also hear from Daniel Cloke, a former News International human-resources director and Jon Chapman, formerly head of legal affairs for the unit. They will be asked about the dismissal of Clive Goodman, the paper’s former royal reporter who was jailed for hacking, and his subsequent claim others at the paper were involved.

Lewis, who also represented Taylor, chief executive of the Professional Footballers’ Association, obtained documents from the police suggesting Goodman wasn’t the only News of the World reporter aware of hacking. Crone advised Colin Myler and Murdoch the company should settle.

The scandal has snowballed since 2007, when Goodman and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire were jailed for hacking. Police are probing the extent of phone and computer hacking by journalists and illegal payments to officers, and Prime Minister David Cameron announced a public inquiry into the practice.

A News Corp. spokeswoman and Crone declined to comment.

Bloomberg LP, the parent of Bloomberg News, competes with News Corp. units in providing financial news and information.

To contact the reporter on this story: Erik Larson in London at elarson4@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Aarons at aaarons@bloomberg.net

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