James Murdoch is back in the hot seat after four former top execs at News Corp testified before Parliament that Murdoch had mislead them during his July testimony.Parliament opened new hearings today investigate the “continuing difference in the accounts of James Murdoch and Tom Crone and Colin Myler about whether or not James Murdoch was aware of the so-called for Neville e-mail.”
The so-called Neville email dates back to 2005 and contained transcripts of hacked phone conversations — evidence that the hackings had been widespread. Neville is presumed to refer to NOTW’s chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck.
News Corp has always maintained the hackings were contained to one reporter. If it is proven that Murdoch knew of this email it will contradict that assertion and much of Murdoch’s testimony in July.
In 2008, at the time the email came to light through a lawsuit brought against the company by soccer union leader Gordon Taylor, James made a 1.4 million dollar settlement — the most expensive to date.
During July’s hearings Murdoch said he’d made the payout because it financially made sense and not because he was trying to hide the truth. He also asserted he’d never seen the Neville email.
Immediately after the hearings Colin Myler, the former editor of News of the World, and Tom Crone, the former News International legal manager, publicly stated Mr. Murdoch was “mistaken” in his testimony.
Today they reiterated this claim.
The New York Times reports Crone told Parliament that the Neville email “was the reason we had to settle the case and in order to settle the case, we had to explain the case to Mr. Murdoch and get his authority to settle, so clearly it was discussed…I can’t remember the conversation and there isn’t a note of it. The conversation lasted about 15 minutes. It was discussed, but exactly what was said I can’t remember.”
Myler, who lost his job at News of the World when the Murdoch’s shut it down, confirmed this: “There was no ambiguity about the significance of that document and what options were there for the company to take…Mr. Murdoch was the chief executive of the company. He’s experienced. I am experienced in what I do. Mr. Crone is experienced as a legal manager. I think everybody perfectly understood the seriousness and the significance of what we were discussing.”
James is denying the allegations.
Whether James will be called back in front of Parliament to answer these charges, remains to be seen. But at the moment it is four former execs against one current exec, and with those odds one imagines he’d do well to bring Wendi Deng with him.
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