It looks increasingly likely that James Murdoch will make a return trip to Westminster to testify before the House of Commons Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport. The News Corp. (NSDQ: NWS) deputy COO hoped to avoid that by replying in writing to questions following his July 19 testimony with his father, News Corp. Chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch, but that isn’t going to clear up the pesky conflicts in the versions of events described by the two of them and those of their former employees and law firm Harbottle & Lewis.
Among the conflicts, some former News of the World and News Intl. editorial and legal executives say James Murdoch was more informed than he claims about pertinent details, including the reason for making a high-end settlement with a hacking victim.
Still, young Murdoch’s written reply, delivered Aug. 11 as required but not published by the committee until this afternoon UK time, will have to do until September, when the committee is expected to resume hearings. The actual response is six pages long; documents sought by the committee form the bulk of the filing. In it, Murdoch:
– says he when he told the committee he wouldn’t withdraw the Harbottle & Lewis letter he didn’t mean to suggest it should still be relied on. “As we now know, the facts show that the wrongdoing at the News of the World did spread beyond Mr Goodman. The letter, therefore, cannot be relied upon any more.”
– admits the amount of a settlement was based on a confidentiality clause but says he was not aware of that when he agreed to settle.
Here are some questions and replies, after Murdoch reminds the committee that he was not at News Intl. for most of the events under review:
I am committed to ensuring that News Corporation and its subsidiary, News lnternational, will cooperate fully with you In my responses below I have sought to provide further information in a number of areas, where this is available. It is worth highlighting at the point that a number of your specific questions concern matters which are not within my own personal knowledge. Where that is the case I have made it clear that my answers are based on information obtained from my colleagues. I do that by prefacing my answers with a statement such as I am informed. …
I would like to remind the Committee that I rejoined News Corporation in December 2007 and that News International was one of the companies in Europe and Asia for which I was responsible and that many of the underlying facts to the answers below pce-date my joining.
7) Please indicate, when, precisely, you first came to know about the file of emails that was discovered, allegedly In the offices of Hartottie and Lewis.
I first heard about the existence of the Harbottle & Lewis file on or about 20 April 2011.
8) Please provide the instructions given to Harbottle and Lewis.
I enclose copies of the documents which I am informed constitute the correspondence (both hard copy and email) between the company and Harbottle & Lewis in relation to the
review conducted by Harbottle & Lewis In May 2007 which led lo their letter dated 29 May 2007. RedactIons have been made after discussion with the Metropolitan Police Serve. I do not know what other oral instructions were given, if any.
9) Could you tell the Committee the extent of the Information that was given to Harbottle and Lewis out of the totality of information that was available?
In addition to the documents referred to in answer to question 8 above, I am told that Harbottle & Lewis appear to have been given online access to emails from six email accounts, namely the email accounts of individuals whose names arose in-the context of employment proceedings brought by Mr Goodman following his dismissal. I do not know what else, it anything, was given to them.
10) Please indicate whether you would like to reconsider the Harbottle and Lewis letter provided to the Committee during Its 2009 inquiry, and, if so, why.
I was asked during my appearance before the Seleci Committee whether I would like to withdraw the Harbottle & Lewis letter from the record “as an accurate portrayal of what really went on at the News of the World.” In my evidence I explained that it was a relevant document in tenns or the reliance placed on it by News International at the time. I did not suggest, however, that it should still be relied upon. As we now know, the facts show that the wrongdoing at the News of the World did spread beyond Mr Goodman. The letter, therefore, cannot be relied upon any more.
11) Before authorising the Gordon Taylor settlement, what did you know of the interceptIon and other facts surrounding It including: by whom it was carried out; and on whose instruction or behalf? How, when and by whom were you told; and what evidence did you see or ask for regarding the interception?
I was briefed by Mr Crone and Mr Myler on the status of the case on 10 June 2008 at a meeting in my offices in Wapping. My recollection is that the meeting was relatively short (certainly less than 30 minutes) I explained my understandeg of the cuse after that briefing in my answer to Q242. PrIor to the meeting of 10 June 2008, I do not recall being given any briefing nor do I recall either Mr Crone or Mr Mylar rererring to, or showing me any documents during the meeting. I recall being told by them when we met that the civil litigation related to the interception of Mr Taylor’s voicemas to which Mulcare had pleaded guilty the previous year and that there was evidence that Mulcaire had carried out this interception on behalf or the News of the WorId. It was for this reason thai Mr Crone and Mr Myler recommended settlement. I was told that external counsel agreed with this. I was
advised that there was no benefit in continuing to Itigate the case and that we would lose. I did not ask for any evidence – I was content to rely upon Mr Myler end Mr Crone. Let me reiterate that I have no recollection of any mention of “Thurlbeck” or a “for Neville” email.
Neither Mr Myler nor Mr Crone told me that wrongdoing extended beyond Mr Goodman or Mr Mulcaire. There was nothing discussed in the meeting that led me to believe that a further investigation was necessary. As far as I can recall, I authorised Messrs Crone and Myler at the meeting of 10 June to go ahead and negotiate a settlement There were no further meetings and I do not recall any further discussion on the subject. However, it is possible, although I do not recall it, that someone may have given me a brief update subsequeriy as to the amount of the final settlement.
I would like to clarify what I said to the Committee about how the amount of the Taylot settlement was reached. In my answers to 0264 and 0392 I explained that I had understood that the amount was based on a judgemerit or the likely damages that could be awarded, and the costs and expenses associated with litigation, However, I did not know at the time or when I gave my evidence that any part of the amount of the Taylor settlement specifically related to the confidentiality aspect of the settlement. Since I gave this response, I have been Informed that confidentiality was a factor in determining the amount of the settlement payment: however, I was not party to those discussions nor was it my motivation for agreeing to settle the case which, as described above, was to avoid continuing to litigate a case which I understood we were bound to lose.
The full text is on the committee’s site along with all the documents provided.