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News Corp. Independent Directors Hire Debevoise Law Firm

News Corp.’s independent directors hired the law firm Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, according to Mary Jo White, a partner at the firm and the former U.S. attorney in New York.

Michael Mukasey, who served as U.S. attorney general under George W. Bush, will join White in representing directors, Suzanne Elio, a spokeswoman for the firm, said today.

“Debevoise & Plimpton has been retained to advise Viet Dinh in his supervision of the Management and Standards Committee on behalf of the independent members of the board,” Elio said in an e-mail. She declined to comment further.

Dinh, who runs a small law firm in Washington that specializes in damage control, and venture capital executive Tom Perkins are leading the efforts of independent directors, who hold nine of 16 board seats. Dinh, also a professor at Georgetown University and the chief architect of the USA Patriot Act, represented Perkins, a former Hewlett-Packard Co. director, during a scandal at that company.

News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch and his son James appeared today before a committee of the U.K. Parliament to answer questions about the company’s role in phone hacking by the News of the World tabloid. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is looking into whether News Corp. employees tried to hack the voice mail of victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the U.S.

Lobbying Congress

White, chairwoman of the litigation department at New York-based Debevoise, spent 8 1/2 years as the top federal prosecutor in Manhattan before entering private practice and representing companies including Morgan Stanley and Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. In February 2009, she wooed Mukasey to the firm.

Earlier this year, Mukasey was hired by the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform to lobby Congress on foreign bribery law, seeking changes that would limit companies’ liability and exposure. U.S. lawmakers have asked the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission to probe News Corp. for possible violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, alleging that company employees may have paid U.K. police or other U.K. government officials for stories.

“There are questions about whether the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act has been violated by Rupert Murdoch and his news empire,” said Democratic Senator Dick Durbin on NBC’s “Meet the Press” program.

‘Compliance Defense’

Mukasey testified before a House of Representatives panel last month urging lawmakers to make six specific changes to the law, including the addition of a “compliance defense” that would protect companies from crimes committed by rogue employees or subsidiaries.

“The FCPA, as it is currently written and enforced, leaves corporations vulnerable to civil and criminal penalties for a wide variety of conduct that is in many cases beyond their control or even their knowledge,” Mukasey said in remarks prepared for the panel.

The Chamber has paid Mukasey $120,000 for his lobbying activities since he was hired in March, according to records filed with Congress.

Dinh didn’t return a telephone call and e-mail seeking comment. Mukasey didn’t return two phone messages seeking comment.

Teri Everett, a spokeswoman for New York-based News Corp., declined to comment.

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