Blog Post

Hacking: Committee Releases Potentially Devastating NoTW Correspondence

The House of Commons Select Committee investigating widespread hacking at News of the World and a host of potential ripple effects, including a possible coverup by News Corp. (NSDQ: NWS), did one heck of a data dump today. In one fell swoop (and a lot of pdfs), the committee published not only James Murdoch’s anticipated written response to questions following his July 19 testimony to the committee, but correspondence from the law firm News Corp. hired in 2007. Each includes versions of a potentially devastating letter from Clive Goodman, the one reporter who went to jail in the original hacking scandal.

As a result of the conflicting stories, James Murdoch likely will wind up testifying again in person, although Rupert Murdoch appears to be done with his star turn before that particular committee.

The committee correspondence published early Tuesday afternoon in the UK includes two versions of the letter from former Royal correspondent Clive Goodman — one heavily redacted in James Murdoch’s reply and one less redacted version in the response from Harbottle & Lewis LLP. Neither version is complete — and neither looks very good for News Corp., with Goodman claiming that hacking was widely discussed at NoTW editorial meetings, that others “were carrying out the same illegal procedures” and that others were not disciplined. Goodman was challenging his dismissal by Les Hinton, then the head of News Intl., for “gross misconduct”.

Despite the company’s claim that he was being fired for cause, James Murdoch admitted Goodman received two payments totaling more than 243,000 pounds “in the context of an unfair dismissal claim.” That covers a year’s salary plus some legal fees related to the dismissal and appears to be considerably more than News Intl. first said he received — 60,000 pounds plus notice. News Intl. hired Harbottle & Lewis to review more than 2,500 e-mails rather than provide them directly to Goodman during his appeal. The remit was an “independent” review to back up NI execs’ finding that none of the e-mails showed any other NoTW journalists were involved.

The law firm included a string of correspondence about how it would word its own finding. The result was the letter Hinton, the Murdochs and others insist made it clear the hacking was contained to Goodman and one editor; Harbottle says it was never intended to do that. Hinton, a 50-year plus employee and Murdoch confidante, resigned as CEO of Dow Jones last month after the scandal widened.

The full list of documents is on the House of Commons site for the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport.

This file (pdf) comes from the Murdoch response and starts after a copy of an ethics policy; the version in the Harbottle file is near the end.

More to come