News Corp. Begins Settlement Program for Phone-Hacking Victims

News Corp. (NWSA)’s U.K. unit started a voluntary settlement program for thousands of potential victims of phone hacking by the company’s News of the World tabloid, which was shuttered in July as the scandal expanded.

Victims can apply online for the “speedy, cost-effective alternative to litigation,” London-based News International said today in a statement. The applications will be assessed by former judge Charles Gray to ensure fairness, the company said. The settlement program was first announced in April and begins taking claims today.

“It should provide very significant benefits to applicants such as avoiding the enormous expense of court proceedings,” Gray said in the statement. “I look forward to adjudicating awards under the scheme, at all times safeguarding the fairness of the process and the rights of applicants.”

The five-year-old hacking scandal expanded in July when it was revealed that the News of the World had targeted the mobile phone of murdered school girl Millie Dowler in 2002, hampering a police search when she was missing. News Corp. closed the 168- year-old tabloid and dropped its 7.8 billion-pound bid for full control of British Sky Broadcasting Group Plc. (BSY) It was previously thought the tabloid targeted only celebrities.

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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