Magazine article Variety

Will U.S. Join Hacking Probe?

Magazine article Variety

Will U.S. Join Hacking Probe?

Article excerpt


The latest arrest of British journalists employed by News Intl. has led to a drumbeat of speculation in this hacking-obsessed nation that U.S. prosecutors could soon turn up the heat, on Rupert Murdoch's worldwide media empire.

So far, New York lawyers seeking evidence of hacking Stateside, including tapping phones of 9/1 1 victims, have remained mum. But Mark Lewis, a lawyer for U.K. hacking victims, told Variety he is planning a trip to the U.S. in several weeks, prompting buzz that there could be developments around then.

Chatter is focused on the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which can go after companies for paying bribes to government officials anywhere in the world they do business. The Dept. of Justice doesn't have to wait until charges are filed or convictions logged overseas, but can move at any time to indict, says New York lawyer Norman Siegel who is working with Lewis. Conspiracy charges have a five year statute of limitations, which may be fueling conjecture that the government will move.

An FCPA probe can cover record-keeping of payments and transactions. Prosecution is concerned "less with the measurable size of the specific gain from any one instance of bribery" than whether bribery was a widespread business practice and, crucially, whether directors at News Corp. were aware of it or "willfully blind," said Claire Enders, who runs U.K. media research company Enders Analysis.

News Corp. declined to comment on any DOJ action. But it did hire New York lawyer Mark Mendelsohn, who had run Justice's FCPA section.

The DOJ, which has moved against other big companies, including Siemens, Daimler Chrysler and Johnson & Johnson, as well as individuals, doesn't comment on investigations unless charges are brought.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said in August he was concerned at allegations that News Corp. employees may have hacked phones of Sept. 11 victims or their families, and that the DOJ was looking at it.

Meanwhile, the pressure in Blighty shows no signs of abating. The second phase of a government investigation into press ethics, the so-caUed Leveson Inquiry, sparked by the scandal, is scheduled to begin Feb. 27. The first part looked at the press's relationship with the public. Leveson s new focus will be the dealings between the press and police.

Also in late February, Parliaments Culture Committee is planning to issue the results of its investigation into the scandal, part of which included grilling News Corp. …

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