James Murdoch Could Face Charges in U.S., U.K. After Hacking Scandal

Rupert Murdoch's son James could face "corporate legal battles on both sides of the Atlantic that involve criminal charges, fines and forfeiture of assets" related to the phone hacking scandal currently embroiling News Corporation. Murdoch fils, who is the deputy COO of News Corp, has admitted to misleading the British Parliament about the hacking. The conglomerate decided to shutter tabloid News of the World this weekend after revelations that the paper had hacked into the phones of murder and abduction victims.

This, along with reports that the tabloid paid off police officers for information, could spell a lot of trouble for Murdoch both here and in Britain. Per the Guardian:

The payments could leave News Corp - and possibly James Murdoch himself - facing the possibility of prosecution in the US under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) - legislation designed to stamp out bad corporate behaviour that carries severe penalties for anyone found guilty of breaching it - and in the UK under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 which outlaws the interception of communications.

Tony Woodcock, a partner at the City law firm Stephenson Harwood, said section 79 of the 2000 Act enabled criminal proceedings to be brought against not only a company, but also a director or similar officer where the offence was committed with their "consent or connivance" or was "attributable to any neglect on their part". Woodcock said: "This could embrace a wide number of people at the highest level within an organisation, such as a chief executive - not just the individual who 'pushed the button' allowing the intercept to take place or someone (perhaps less senior) who encouraged or was otherwise an accessory to the offence, such as an editor."

This isn't good news for James' master plan of wresting control of daddy's empire in the future. As the Times points out, this is a "decisive moment" for the younger Murdoch; will he restore News Corp to its former glory, or let the fruit of his father's labors rot on the vine? And is anyone writing a screenplay for this yet?

[Guardian, NYT]

[rgray@villagevoice.com] [@_rosiegray]

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