News Corp.’s Simon Greenberg, a member of an internal panel tasked with reviewing phone hacking at the News of the World and the company’s other U.K. newspapers, once oversaw a reporter at another publication arrested last week in a police probe.
Greenberg, 42, was the associate editor for sports at the Evening Standard until 2004 when Raoul Simons worked there as a soccer reporter. Simons, who is heard discussing phone hacking on a 2005 tape recording, was arrested by London police Sept. 7, a person familiar with the matter said. Simons moved to News Corp.’s Times in 2009.
While there is no implication Greenberg was involved in any wrongdoing, Simons’s arrest shows phone hacking may have spread beyond the News of the World and emphasises the difficulties associated with investigating it. The failure of News Corp. (NWSA)’s previous attempts to determine the extent of phone hacking puts a higher standard on the current investigation, said Martin Moore, director of the Media Standards Trust in London.
Any investigation that News Corp.’s News International unit “does now or in the future has to be both transparent and rigorous and have high levels of accountability or else people are going to have a lot of trouble regarding it as credible,” Moore said. Media Standards Trust is a non-profit organization that focuses on transparency in the press and has made recommendations to Prime Minister David Cameron’s media inquiry.
News International and Greenberg declined to comment.
Simons was the 16th person arrested in connection with the scandal this year, including Rebekah Brooks, the chief executive officer of the company’s U.K. publishing unit. Brooks and Les Hinton, who was running News Corp.’s Dow Jones & CO. unit in New York, were forced to resign after revelations that News of the World hacked into the phone of a murdered schoolgirl in 2002.
News Corp.’s management and standards committee, which Greenberg is on, was given the mandate to conduct internal inquiries. The company said in August that its primary objective has been providing information to police and other government investigations.
Greenberg was sports editor of the Evening Standard, overseeing as many as 35 editors and reporters, until he took a public relations position with the Chelsea Football Club in 2004. Greenberg was chief of staff for England’s unsuccessful bid to host the 2018 soccer World Cup. He joined News International in January as director of corporate affairs.
A recording of Simons speaking with a private investigator about how to hack into voicemails was made at least six months after Greenberg had left the paper, according to two people at the company who declined to be identified because the matter is confidential.
In the tape, Simons is heard in a recording being instructed by private detective Glenn Mulcaire about how to hack into a mobile phone, the person said. Mulcaire worked for the News of the World before being jailed in 2007 after pleading guilty to phone hacking related charges.
The police, who didn’t confirm the identity of the arrested 35-year-old man, said last week that he was detained and released on bail. The tape was made in 2005, at least six months after Greenberg left the Evening Standard, the people said.
By the time Greenberg was appointed to the management and standards committee, the News Corp. publication had suspended Simons following the release of the recording online, the people said.
Simons was deputy football editor at the Times when he was suspended last year, one of the people said. Simons is still employed by the newspaper and is on extended leave pending a review of his conduct, the person said.
The Times didn’t respond to requests to provide contact information for Simons.
News Corp.’s U.K. publishing unit shut down the News of the World tabloid in July after reports surfaced that reporters had hacked into the voicemail of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler. Clive Goodman, a former reporter at the tabloid, had been jailed along with Mulcaire in 2007 for admitting to listening to messages sent by the royal family.
In addition to Greenberg, the management and standards committee is comprised of attorney Anthony Grabiner, William Lewis, a former general manager at the company’s U.K. newspaper unit, and Jeff Palker, News Corp.’s general counsel for Europe and Asia.
U.K. lawmakers last week criticized News Corp.’s previous probes into phone hacking at News of the World, which were touted by News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch at hearings in July. The probes by two law firms later turned out to be a limited inquiry into Goodman’s wrongful termination case and another effort to coordinate police requests during their initial investigation.
Greenberg was praised by Sue Akers, who is heading the investigation by the police force, for cooperating with the probe in a July 12 meeting at the U.K. Parliament’s Home Affairs select committee.
News Corp. “is going to be very sensitive to any potential conflict of interest given the nature and the high stakes,” said Niri Shan, a media lawyer at Taylor Wessing LLP in London. “Having said that, the fact that they worked together so long ago may reassure them that a conflict does not actually arise.”
The arrest of Simons also potentially widens the scandal to other newspapers. The Evening Standard, sold in 2009 to Russian billionaire Alexander Lebedev, belonged to the Daily Mail and General Trust Plc when Simons worked there.
Daily Mail spokesman Oliver Lloyd didn’t return a two calls seeking comment.
Other newspapers have been implicated in a study by the Information Commissioner’s Office, a U.K. group tasked with monitoring data privacy and information rights, called “Operation Motorman.” The report, published in December 2006 found evidence that 305 journalists working for 32 newspapers and magazines bought illegally obtained information.
Cameron has appointed Lord Justice Brian Leveson to investigate the country’s media in the wake of the scandal. A seven-member panel has asked for responses from newspapers, including the Daily Mail, and will call witnesses from the media as it investigates the press, its ethics and the relationship with politicians and police.
News Corp.’s own investigations, started after Goodman pled guilty to hacking in 2006, failed to indicate widespread hacking at the News of the World. The law firm Harbottle & Lewis LLP and the company’s legal manager Tom Crone looked through 2,500 e- mails from employees Goodman had identified as being involved with the voicemail scheme and said they found no evidence that reporters were getting information illegally.
Law firm BCL Burton Copeland, which worked for News International when the scandal erupted in 2006 and 2007, said its role was limited to providing documents to the police and wasn’t asked to carry out an investigation into phone hacking.
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