Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Australian pension fund calls for Rupert Murdoch to quit as chairman of News Corp

Rupert Murdoch is facing calls from Australian pension funds to step down as chairman of News Corp, as a shareholder revolt spreads to the media magnate’s native country.

Best friends: Prime Minister David Cameron with News Corporation's chairman and chief executive Rupert Murdoch - The Murdoch scandal wasn’t about Tory sleaze – but it is now
Prime Minister David Cameron with News Corporation's chairman and chief executive Rupert Murdoch Photo: Julian Andrews
The Australian Council of Superannuation Investors (ASCI), which represents funds with more than A$350bn (£222bn) in assets, has become the latest body to demand that the 81-year old relinquish the chairmanship of the company he founded. The pressure is mounting on Mr Murdoch to dilute the control he wields in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal that forced News Corp to close The News of the World newspaper and has left it facing multiple investigations.
“ASCI recognises that some change has occurred at the board level in 2012, however it remains paramount that News Corp has a truly independent board, both independent of management and family,” said Ann Byrne, the group’s chief executive.
The billionaire will face the renewed challenge to his grip on the company at News Corp’s annual shareholder meeting in Los Angeles later this month. Like UK pension fund Hermes earlier this week, the ASCI is putting its muscle behind a resolution that will be presented at the meeting.
News Corp’s board was the target of criticism by corporate governance critics before the phone-hacking scandal, and the company is adding new faces to its roll of directors. Former Colombian president Alvaro Uribe and Elaine Chao, who worked for former US president George W Bush, have both been nominated.
The ASCI is also recommending its members vote down News Corp’s renumeration report for top executives, as well as its dual-class share structure. The latter ensures that the Murdoch family controls almost 40pc of the voting rights at the company.
News Corp’s board has advised shareholders to vote against the plan for an independent chairman, and Mr Murdoch is expected to give a robust defence of his dual role as chairman and chief executive when he takes the stage at the meeting.
Although Mr Murdoch is now a US citizen, News Corp remains a major media company in Australia. Its sharesare also listed in Sydney.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Phone hacking: Met chiefs given £300,000 payoffs after resigning

The senior Scotland Yard figures who resigned in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal shared payoffs totalling more than £300,000.

Sir Paul Stephenson resigns as Metropolitan Police Commissioner over phone hacking scandal

Britain’s top policeman, the country’s head of counter-terrorism and the Metropolitan Police’s press chief all stepped down from the force a year ago over their links to the News of the World.
But although all three quit in the face of public anger and scrutiny from MPs over the close relationship between the police and the tabloid newspaper, rather than being dismissed, it has now emerged for the first time that they received substantial payoffs.
The force’s accounts, disclosed by The Daily Telegraph, show that the Commissioner, Sir Paul Stephenson, was given £176,838 “compensation for loss of office” after his shock resignation last July.
He stepped down over his decision to employ as a PR adviser Neil Wallis, a former deputy editor at the News of the World, and his free £12,000 stay at a spa resort for which Mr Wallis worked.
Sir Paul’s total remuneration for 2011-12 came to £275,263, even though he worked at Scotland Yard for just three months of the financial year. Sources said he chose to clear his desk within two weeks and did not ask for any compensation, but Met contracts mean that he was paid for the rest of his notice period.
Mr Yates’s total remuneration for the year came to £237,244.
Dick Fedorcio, the Met’s Director of Public Affairs, received a £50,503 payoff after he resigned at the end of March.
He was placed on extended leave in the summer after it emerged that he had given Mr Wallis’s firm a £24,000 contract, and stepped down when the force opened gross misconduct proceedings against him.
Mr Fedorcio’s package came to £175,206 for the full year.
Meanwhile Martin Tiplady, Scotland Yard’s Director of Human Resources, was paid £259,462 after resigning in April 2011.
Another Assistant Commissioner, Ian McPherson, was given £25,603 when he resigned in November.
In addition the Met spent £45million on voluntary redundancy payments for 1,166 other staff.
Jenny Jones, Deputy Chairman of the Police and Crime Committee on the London Assembly, said: “I’m absolutely appalled. As far as I’m concerned, if somebody resigns they should walk away from the job and not get a penny for it.
“I think they should have been embarrassed to take the money. It’s taxpayers’ money – it’s not for frittering away on people who chose to resign.”
The payments were agreed by the now-disbanded Metropolitan Police Authority and its successor body, the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime.
A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police said: “Upon leaving the MPS, individuals may have entered into discussions with the MPA / MOPC regarding their contractual position and recompense.
“The outcomes of discussions or agreements are a matter for each individual and we will not be commenting on specific cases.”
The Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime said that the payments were made in line with “contractual obligations”.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Leveson Inquiry: misbehaving newspapers should be fined £1 million, says Lord Black

Newspapers and magazines would be fined up to £1 million for the most serious “breakdowns in ethical behaviour” under a new system of regulation suggested to the Leveson Inquiry.

Leveson Inquiry: Industry recognises 'weakness' within self-regulation
Lord Black was director of the PCC between 2000 and 2006 
Lord Black of Brentwood, chairman of the Press Standards Board of Finance, the co-ordinating body for newspaper and magazine publishers’ trade associations, said “serious” financial penalties should be legally enforceable by a new watchdog.
But he urged the Inquiry chairman, Lord Justice Leveson, to resist any
form of statutory regulation, saying any body policing the media must be independent of Parliament.
Lord Black, who is Executive Director of Telegraph Media Group, publisher of The Daily Telegraph, said the system he was suggesting was “future proof” because it could be applied to print and digital news organisations alike.
He is one of a number of senior figures within the media invited by Lord Justice Leveson to submit ideas for a more robust replacement for the current watchdog body, the Press Complaints Commission.
Lord Black said the PCC had “lost the confidence of the public” because of its “inadequate” response to the phone-hacking scandal.
The proposal involves a complaints committee which would deal with complaints against the media, and a separate investigations and compliance panel with the power to call witnesses and demand documents as it looked into breaches of ethical standards.
The two arms of a new regulator would be overseen by an independent trust board, with members of the public making up the majority of its members, Lord Black said.
Publishers would sign up to a five-year rolling contract with the regulator, paying annual fees, and would face legally-enforceable penalties enshrined in the contract for any transgressions.
“This gives the new regulator an enforceable legal basis on which to work without the need for any form of statutory intervention,” said Lord Black.
Financial penalties would be decided by the trust board, which would have the power to levy fines of up to £1m for “systemic breakdowns in ethical behaviour”, he suggested.
He said any publisher who left the voluntary regulatory system would be liable for future fees covered in the contract.
They could also face other sanctions, he added, such as the withdrawal of press cards from their journalists, the withdrawal of access to agency copy and the loss of a proposed “kite mark”, which would make it harder to attract advertising.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Phone hacking police arrest man on conspiracy to pervert justice

Detectives investigating phone hacking have arrested a 26-year-old man on suspicion of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, Scotland Yard said.

A Scotland Yard detective has been arrested and suspended over alleged leaks to journalists.
The man is the 24th person arrested as part of Operation Weeting.
The man was arrested at a residential address in Surrey earlier today and will be questioned at a London police station.
The arrest was made as part of the Operation Weeting investigation into hacking of voicemail boxes.
The man is the 24th person arrested as part of Operation Weeting. Six people - including former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks and her racehorse trainer husband Charlie - have been charged in connection with the inquiry.
Mrs Brooks faces three charges of conspiring to pervert the course of justice, while her husband is charged with one count of the same offence.
The couple are due to enter pleas when they appear at Southwark Crown Court in London on September 26.
Fourteen others remain on bail pending further inquiries while four were released with no further action.
Three people arrested yesterday as part of Operation Elveden, the Metropolitan Police investigation into suspected corrupt payments to public officials, were later released on bail.
Former Mirror journalist Greig Box-Turnbull, 37, who worked for Trinity Mirror until taking voluntary redundancy in March, a 46-year-old prison worker and a 50-year-old woman were arrested yesterday morning on suspicion of corruption, conspiracy to commit bribery and conspiracy to cause misconduct in a public office.
The 46-year-old man was bailed to return to a London police station today.
Box-Turnbull and the 50-year-old woman are due to answer bail at separate London police stations in late October.
Box-Turnbull is working for Westminster Council but was on secondment to Richmond Council.
A Westminster Council spokesman said yesterday: "We have yet to speak to the employee. With the possibility of further legal action it would clearly be inappropriate to comment further."
Trinity Mirror has not been contacted by Scotland Yard about the arrest, and it is unclear whether any allegations are linked to Box-Turnbull's work for the Daily Mirror, a spokesman said.
So far 37 people have been arrested as part of Operation Elveden.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Leveson Inquiry: Rupert Murdoch and son to appear

News Corporation boss Rupert Murdoch is to appear before the Leveson Inquiry on Wednesday and Thursday next week.
His son James Murdoch will appear on Tuesday, the inquiry also confirmed.
Rupert Murdoch will be questioned about practices at his British newspapers in the light of the phone-hacking scandal that resulted in the closure of News of the World (NOTW).
James Murdoch resigned as the executive chairman of News International in February.
It will be the first time either of the Murdochs have appeared in front of the Leveson inquiry, which is looking into media standards.
News International has been at the centre of a scandal regarding the culture, practices and ethics of the press.
The Murdochs are likely to be asked whether they were aware of allegations that the practice of illegally intercepting voicemails went beyond News of the World royal reporter Clive Goodman, who was jailed in 2007.
'Dirty hands'
Last year James Murdoch - who stood down as head of the UK newspaper business that owns the Sun, Times and Sunday Times - told MPs he had no prior knowledge of the scale of wrongdoing on the newspapers he controlled.
But in December, an email from 2008 was released indicating he had been copied into messages referring to the "rife" practice of phone hacking at the News of the World.
Mr Murdoch has said although he was copied into the email, he did not read it fully.
Rupert Murdoch is also expected to face questioning about claims that he and his top executives were too close to British politicians and police officers.
He is likely to be questioned on what steps were taken to ensure that his UK titles were acting within the law and within the code of practice for journalists administered by the Press Complaints Commission.
In common with other witnesses at the inquiry they will also be asked about his thoughts for how the press should be regulated in Britain in the future.
When questioned by MPs about the scandal last July, Rupert Murdoch said that his company had been caught with "dirty hands" and apologised for its actions.
He admitted that appearing in front of the Culture select Committee last summer was the most "humble" day of his life.
Aidan Barclay, chairman of the Telegraph group and Evgeny Lebedev, chairman of Independent Print Limited and Evening Standard Limited are also due to give evidence to the inquiry on Monday.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Murdoch knew about Sky News hacking allegations ‘months ago’

James Murdoch and the BSkyB board were warned “a number of months ago” about evidence of illegal email hacking at Sky News but did not make a public announcement because they said the police had already been informed, senior sources at the broadcaster have disclosed.

News Corp executive James Murdoch speaks to parliamentarians in London
Some News Corp investors are said to be concerned that the hacking contagion could spread to BSkyB from News International. 
Sky News, owned and operated by BSkyB, admitted last week that a reporter had been authorised to hack emails in two cases. The channel defended its actions saying the information was “in the public interest”.
One instance involved an investigation into John Darwin, the “canoe man” who faked his death and fled to Panama in 2002. BSkyB’s admission came two days after James Murdoch stepped down as chairman, leading to accusations that the two events were linked. BSkyB said that was not the case.
Some News Corp investors are said to be concerned that the hacking contagion could spread to BSkyB from News International. One close observer said it would have been better if BSkyB had made the announcement about the hacking when the board was first told. BSkyB has launched a wider inquiry into operations at Sky News and has said it has found no evidence of wrong-doing.
John Ryley, the head of Sky News, said the actions were “editorially justified” and involved suspected crimes. In the case of Anne Darwin (John Darwin’s wife, who was convicted of fraud), emails were handed to the police.
Police are now looking into the hacked emails. The Sky News executive who gave the authorisation, Simon Cole, has now taken early retirement although BSkyB said the two matters were not connected.
Nicholas Ferguson, the new chairman of BSkyB, is likely to be in position for “a number of years” according to those close to him.
There had been speculation that his would be an interim appointment until the board found a chairman who could reassure investors he was independent of News Corp, which owns 39pc of BSkyB.
Mr Ferguson has been on the BSkyB board since 2004 and is a firm supporter of Mr Murdoch. Tom Mockridge, the CEO of News International, which is owned by News Corp, is now BSkyB’s deputy chairman.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Rebekah and Charlie Brooks arrest: one minute they were off racing, the next they were under arrest

Charlie Brooks should have been spending Tuesday at Cheltenham Festival with his wife Rebekah enjoying “the happiest moment of my year”, as the racehorse trainer described it.

Charlie Brooks should have been spending Tuesday at Cheltenham Festival with his wife Rebekah enjoying “the happiest moment of my year”, as the racehorse trainer described it.
Mr Brooks and his wife were being interviewed at separate police stations after being arrested by officers investigating phone hacking at the News of the World 
In his racing column in The Daily Telegraph on Monday, Mr Brooks purred at the prospect of his first pint of Guinness, which he planned to drink three hours before the meeting began.
“At that moment, I think to myself every year; I’m here, I’m alive and I’ve got a full pint in my hand,” he wrote.
But instead of propping up the bar at one of the five pubs he intended to visit, Mr Brooks and his wife were being interviewed at separate police stations after being arrested by officers investigating phone hacking at the News of the World.
For Mrs Brooks, a former editor of the Sunday tabloid, it was a familiar experience; she was held last year and questioned about both phone hacking and corrupt payments to public officials.
Mr Brooks, an old Etonian friend of David Cameron, was arrested for the first time after he found himself being dragged into the scandal following his alleged involvement in a bizarre episode involving a laptop found in a dustbin.
A senior security man at News International was understood to be among those held yesterday, after victims of phone hacking obtained evidence of the systematic deletion of compromising emails and the destruction of computers used by News of the World staff.
Mr and Mrs Brooks were at their home in the Cotswolds, expecting to head off to Cheltenham when they were arrested between 5am and 7am.
In January the couple became parents of a surrogate daughter, Scarlett Anne Mary Brooks, who was born at the Portland private hospital in central London.
They could have been forgiven for thinking they would be spending a few days relaxing, especially after the recent “horsegate” disclosure that Scotland Yard lent a retired police horse to Mrs Brooks, which David Cameron had ridden.
Instead, they both found themselves under arrest for an offence that could potentially have far worse implications than the phone hacking which allegedly took place on Mrs Brooks’s watch.
Mr Brooks, 49, was not even married to the former News of the World editor at the time the hacking was allegedly going on, but he came to the attention of police when his laptop was handed in to police the day after his wife’s arrest last July.
Officers from Operation Weeting, the investigation into phone-hacking, and Operation Elveden, the investigation into illicit payments to public officials, had spent nine hours questioning Mrs Brooks on July 17, two days after she resigned as chief executive of News International. She has been on bail since.
The following day a laptop computer and an iPad belonging to Mr Brooks were handed in to police by a security guard at the Design Centre apartment complex in Chelsea Harbour, west London, where Mr and Mrs Brooks have a £1.5  million flat.
A bag containing the computers, a phone and some paperwork had been found in an underground car park by a cleaner and dumped in a bin, where it was found by the security guard.
Mr Brooks said at the time that his briefcase had been dropped off and “there was a misunderstanding about collecting them by a mate”.
He told The Daily Telegraph he was “glued to Sky News” at the time, and that the briefcase “ended up with the trash”.
He added in an email that it was “all my personal info, nothing to do with my wife or search warrant”.
He said he had contacted the police when he realised the bag was missing, and that they confirmed the items had been handed in.
Mr Brooks was taken to a police station in Buckinghamshire yesterday while his 43-year-old wife was taken to a police station in Oxfordshire.
She is likely to have been questioned over disclosures in recent weeks about the deletion of emails and the destruction of computers used by News of the World reporters, which emerged during High Court hearings at which dozens of hacking victims accepted damages from the publisher of the defunct newspaper.
Mrs Brooks was editor of the tabloid from 2000-2003, then served as editor of The Sun until Sep 2009, when she became chief executive of News International.
Last month The Daily Telegraph disclosed that executives at News Group Newspapers had formulated an “email deletion policy” in November 2009 to “eliminate in a consistent manner” emails that could cause trouble.
Staff were told to destroy emails that “could be unhelpful in the context of future litigation in which a News International company is a defendant”.
Papers released by a High Court judge showed that hundreds of thousands of emails were deleted “on nine separate occasions”. One senior executive told a member of staff to remove seven boxes of paper records from the company’s storage facility, it emerged.
Lawyers for some of the hacking victims told the High Court at a separate hearing that computers used by News of the World journalists implicated in the hacking scandal were destroyed in 2010 as part of a “conspiracy” to cover up the extent of phone hacking and the identities of those who knew about it.
Mr Justice Vos, who is presiding over the hacking cases, said he had seen evidence that raised compelling questions about whether News Group “concealed, told lies, actively tried to get off scot free”.
Four men, aged 39, 46, 38 and 48 were arrested in co-ordinated raids in Hampshire, Hertfordshire and London, taking the total number of arrests under Operation Weeting to 29.
A spokesman for Mrs Brooks declined to comment.