Is this a man fit to run a media empire?

One of the biggest there is, as it happens..

After earlier revelations about News of the World hacking into phones of, amongst others, a murdered girl (altering phone records made her parents believe she was still alive), family of murdered soldiers fighting in Afghanistan, victims of the London bomb attacks, (apart from a host of celebrities), destroying evidence, bribing the police, etc. the paper was simply folded in an attempt to gain the upper hand (and probably save the reputation of people like Rebekah Brooks (sacrificing a host of journalists in the process)

Now institutional investors make serious accusations:

News Corp investors attack Murdoch

Rupert Murdoch accused of ‘egregious’ behaviour for using firm as ‘family candy jar’ in lawsuit that claims it is ‘inconceivable’ he was unaware of phone hacking at News of the World

Rupert Neate, Monday 11 July 2011 17.28 BST

A powerful group of News Corp’s shareholders have accused Rupert Murdoch of “egregious” behaviour and treating his media empire like a “family candy jar”.

The shareholder group, which includes banks and pension funds, accused Murdoch of “rampant nepotism” and using News Corp resources for “his own personal and political objectives”.

The institutional shareholders, led by the Amalgamated Bank, said it was “inconceivable” that Murdoch would not have been aware of rampant phone hacking at the News of the World.

“It is inconceivable that [James] Murdoch and his fellow board members would not have been aware of the illicit news gathering practices. And yet, the board took no real action to investigate the allegations until 7 July 2011, when Murdoch selected two of his co-directors to deal with the imbroglio,” the shareholders said in a legal filing in Delaware, where News Corp is registered.

“These revelations should not have taken years to uncover and stop,” the filing adds. “[They] show a culture run amuck within News Corp and a board that provides no effective review or oversight.”

The shareholders noted that Rebekah Brooks, chief executive of News International and editor of the News of the World at the time of the hacking, was “consistently promoted even while the scandal was unfolding”.

The legal filing is an update to an earlier lawsuit against the appointment of Elisabeth Murdoch to News Corp’s board following the $615m (£383m) acquisition of her Shine Group production company.

News Corp’s behaviour has become an egregious collection of nepotism and corporate governance failures, with a board completely unwilling to provide even the slightest level of adult supervision,” said Jay Eisenhofer, a Grant & Eisenhofer lawyer representing the shareholder group.

“The result has been a piling on of questionable deals, a waste of corporate resources, a starring role in a blockbuster scandal, and a gigantic public relations disaster. It is way past time that the News Corp board step in and initiate serious changes to the company’s corporate governance.”

The legal complaint filed in Delaware chancery court said: “Murdoch has treated News Corp like a family candy jar, which he raids whenever his appetite strikes. Ignoring the distinction between public and family business, the board has repeatedly permitted Murdoch to: intertwine rampant nepotism in the conduct of company business; undertake actions designed to maintain his control over News Corp; use News Corp resources for his own personal and political objectives; and reward himself handsomely with excessive compensation.”

The shareholders complain that Murdoch’s personal interference with good corporate governance has led to a so-called “Murdoch discount” that has depressed the value of the shares below those of other similar media companies.

“The fact that the board has been so passive despite years of misconduct is a testament to how lacking in independence its members are from the Murdoch family, shareholders allege. This has led to a ‘Murdoch discount’ in the marketplace,” the complaint adds.

The shares were down 5% at $16.50 in New York trading at 3.45pm London time. The shareholder lobby group owns less than 1% of News Corp stock.

———–[End of article]————

And the revelations are getting worse and worse

News International papers targeted Gordon Brown

Newspapers obtained details from the former prime minister’s bank account and legal file and his family’s medical records

Nick Davies and David Leigh, Monday 11 July 2011 15.47 BST

Journalists from across News International repeatedly targeted the former prime minister Gordon Brown, attempting to access his voicemail and obtaining information from his bank account, his legal file as well as his family’s medical records.

There is also evidence that a private investigator used a serving police officer to trawl the police national computer for information about him.

That investigator also targeted another Labour MP who was the subject of hostile inquiries by the News of the World, but it has not confirmed whether News International was specifically involved in trawling police computers for information on Brown.

Separately, Brown’s tax paperwork was taken from his accountant’s office apparently by hacking into the firm’s computer. This was passed to another newspaper.

Brown was targeted during a period of more than 10 years, both as chancellor of the exchequer and as prime minister. Some of the activity clearly was illegal. Other incidents breached his privacy but not the law. An investigation by the Guardian has found that:

• Scotland Yard has discovered references to both Brown and his wife, Sarah, in paperwork seized from Glenn Mulcaire, the private investigator who specialised in phone hacking for the News of the World;

• Abbey National bank found evidence suggesting that a “blagger” acting for the Sunday Times on six occasions posed as Brown and gained details from his account;

• London lawyers, Allen & Overy, were tricked into handing over details from his file by a conman working for the Sunday Times;

• Details from his infant son’s medical records were obtained by the Sun, who published a story about the child’s serious illness.

Brown joins a long list of Labour politicians who are known to have been targeted by private investigators working for News International, including the former prime minister Tony Blair and his media adviser Alastair Campbell, the former deputy prime minister John Prescott and his political adviser Joan Hammell, Peter Mandelson as trade secretary, Jack Straw and David Blunkett as home secretaries, Tessa Jowell as media secretary and her special adviser Bill Bush, and Chris Bryant as minister for Europe.

The sheer scale of the data assault on Brown is unusual, with evidence of attempts to obtain his legal, financial, tax, medical and police records as well as to listen to his voicemail. All of these incidents are linked to media organisations. In many cases, there is evidence of a link to News International.

Scotland Yard recently wrote separately to Brown and to his wife to tell them that their details had been found in evidence collected by Operation Weeting, the special inquiry into phone hacking at the News of the World. It is believed that this refers to handwritten notes kept by Mulcaire, which were seized by police in August 2006 and never previously investigated. Brown last year asked Scotland Yard if there was evidence that he had been targeted by the private investigator and was told there was none.

Journalists who have worked at News International say they believe that Brown’s personal bank account was accessed on several occasions when he was chancellor of the exchequer. An internal inquiry by Abbey National’s fraud department found that during January 2000, somebody acting on behalf of the Sunday Times contacted their Bradford call centre six times, posing as Brown, and succeeded in extracting details from his account.

Abbey National’s senior lawyer sent a summary of their findings to the editor of the Sunday Times, John Witherow, concluding: “On the basis of these facts and inquiries, I am drawn to the conclusion that someone from the Sunday Times or acting on its behalf has masqueraded as Mr Brown for the purpose of obtaining information from Abbey National by deception.”

Abbey National were not able to identify the bogus caller who tricked their staff. It is a matter of public record that a Sunday Times reporter frequently used the services of a former actor, John Ford, who specialised in “blagging” confidential data from banks, phone companies and the Inland Revenue (now HM Revenue & Customs).

Also in January 2000, one of the paper’s reporters used a conman named Barry Beardall, who was subsequently jailed for fraud, to trick staff at Allen & Overy into handing over details from his personal file. A tape made by Beardall at the time reveals that he claimed to be an accountant from the “Dealson group of companies” and that they were interested in buying Brown’s flat. Beardall also practised trickery in an attempt to provide Sunday Times stories about Blair, the then prime minister, and Labour’s candidate for the mayor of London, Frank Dobson.

Listen to how the Sunday Times blagged Brown’s property details Link to this audio

Confidential health records for Brown’s family have reached the media on two different occasions. In October 2006, the then editor of the Sun, Rebekah Brooks, contacted the Browns to tell them that they had obtained details from the medical file of their four-month-old son, Fraser, which revealed that the boy was suffering from cystic fibrosis. This appears to have been a clear breach of the Data Protection Act, which would allow such a disclosure only if it was in the public interest. Friends of the Browns say the call caused them immense distress, since they were only coming to terms with the diagnosis, which had not been confirmed. The Sun published the story.

Screengrab of Sun website

On the Sun’s website it claims it ‘set the news agenda’ by ‘breaking the sad news that Gordon Brown’s baby boy Fraser has Cystic Fibrosis’.

Five years earlier, when their first child, Jennifer, was born on 28 December 2001, a small group of specialist doctors and nurses was aware that she had suffered a brain haemorrhage and was dying. By some means which has not been discovered, this highly sensitive information was obtained by news organisations, who published it over the weekend before Jennifer died, on Monday 6 January 2002.

In 2003, Devon and Cornwall police discovered that one of their junior officers was providing information from the police national computer to a network of private investigators. The Guardian has established that one of these investigators, Glen Lawson of Abbey Investigations in Newcastle upon Tyne, used this contact to commission a search of police records for information about Brown on 16 November 2000. Lawson also commissioned searches related to two other Labour MPs – Nick Brown and Martin Salter.

Lawson made these searches on behalf of journalists, a previously unreported court hearing was told. Transcripts obtained by the Guardian show that the search on Martin Salter was made at a time when the News of the World, then edited by Brooks, was attacking him for refusing to support the paper’s notorious “Sarah’s law” campaign to name paedophiles. Lawson currently refuses to name the journalists who commissioned him.

An attempt to prosecute this network was blocked by a West Country judge, Paul Darlow, who shocked police by ruling that it would be a misuse of public money to pursue the case. However, Devon and Cornwall police contacted the office of the then chancellor to warn him that he had been a victim, as they also did with his two Labour colleagues.

Brown’s tax paperwork was obtained from the offices of his accountants, Auerbach Hope, in late 1998. The first sign that the records had been taken came when a journalist from the now defunct Sunday Business called the accountants to say that they had been passed a copy of the records, including a schedule of Brown’s income for the most recent year.

The journalist acknowledged that the paperwork showed no sign of any kind of wrongdoing on Brown’s part but wanted to do a story about the fact that it had been stolen.

Police came and found no sign of any break-in. The originals of the documents were still in Brown’s file, which ruled out the possibility that they had been taken from the firm’s dustbins. Auerbach Hope discounted theft by an insider on the grounds that they would have stolen paperwork which showed wrongdoing and thus had greater media value. They concluded that the most likely explanation was that somebody had hacked into their computer systems, specifically targeting Gordon Brown.

Senior Labour figures also strongly suspect that a news organisation broke the law to obtain the emails that led to the resignation in April 2009 of Brown’s close aide Damian McBride. The emails, which disclosed a scheme to smear Tory MPs, had been exchanged between McBride and a Labour party activist, Derek Draper. The Labour figures believe that the emails were hacked from Draper’s computer and that their contents were then sent to the political blogger Guido Fawkes, whose stories were then followed by Fleet Street.

• This article has amended. An earlier version described the law firm Allen & Overy as Gordon Brown’s London lawyers.

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