News UK could face corporate charges in Britain

News UK could face corporate charges in Britain

The media company, formerly known as News International but rebranded as News UK, was already being investigated by America’s Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation. But this is the first time it has become clear that the publisher of The Times, The Sunday Times and The Sun newspapers is being pursued at a corporate level by authorities in London.

Sue Akers, the officer leading Scotland Yard’s investigation into illegal news-gathering, told the Leveson Inquiry last summer that she had sought “legal advice … in respect of both individual and corporate offences”. However, she stopped short of announcing a full investigation into the company.

The investigation arguably also puts the MSC on shaky ground. The unit was set up after the News of the World phone-hacking scandal exploded in 2011, ostensibly as a neutral party within News Corp that would be able to access emails and messages sent by staff and hand them over to the police.

The committee frequently angered News UK journalists, who felt they were being betrayed by their own company, and claimed their lives were being ruined even where they were following the protocol set out by their employer.

However, News Corp needed the unit to help distance itself from alleged criminal behaviour by its journalists, and to rebuild its own reputation. The MSC is still in operation, but has shifted down a gear since the full-scale staff investigation of late 2011 and early 2012.

The scandal forced Mr Murdoch to close the News of the World in July 2011, and this paved the way for News Corp’s split into two units — an entertainment arm and a publishing arm — in June.

In the US, the DoJ and the FBI are investigating News Corp under America’s Foreign and Corrupt Practices Act — a piece of legislation which imposes severe penalties on companies which bribe foreign officials. Investigations can take up to five years, but both regulators have increased their prosecutions under the act in recent years.

In a statement, News Corporation said: “We have co-operated with all relevant authorities throughout the process and our history of assistance is a matter of record in Lord Justice Leveson’s report.”

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