Murdoch unfit to lead global company, says inquiry

Wed, May 2, 2012, 01:00

PUBLISHER RUPERT Murdoch displayed “wilful blindness” towards phone-hacking at News International titles and is not fit to lead a global company, a House of Commons inquiry has found.

The damaging findings by the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee were passed on the key vote of a Liberal Democrat MP, Adrian Sanders.

The committee last year questioned Mr Murdoch, his son James and high-ranking former and serving News International executives, including Rebekah Brooks.

Finding that Mr Murdoch failed to become “fully informed” about phone-hacking, MPs said: “He turned a blind eye and exhibited wilful blindness to what was going on in his companies and publications.

“This culture ... permeated from the top throughout the organisation and speaks volumes about the lack of effective corporate governance at News Corporation and News International.

“We conclude, therefore, that [he] is not a fit person to exercise the stewardship of a major international company,” they went on, in a finding that will imperil Mr Murdoch’s hold on News Corp. It is a finding from which Conservative members of the committee dissented, saying such a judgment, which could effect Mr Murdoch’s efforts to fully take over BSkyB, was a matter for Ofcom, the broadcasting regulator.

However, they did find that Mr Murdoch’s closest ally, Les Hinton, misled MPs in 2009 about payments made to jailed News of the World reporter Clive Goodman, including legal fees.

He also misled MPs about the extent of his knowledge of allegations that the phone-hacking at the News of the World extended beyond Goodman and investigator Glenn Mulcaire.

News International’s former lawyer Tom Crone misled about the importance of the confidentiality deal agreed with one hacking victim, former Professional Footballers’ Association chief executive Gordon Taylor.

Both Mr Crone and the News of the World’s last editor, Colin Myler, misled MPs “by answering questions falsely about their knowledge” of phone-hacking by others at the Sunday tabloid.

Corporately, the News of the World and News International had misled the committee “about the true nature and extent of the internal investigations” they claimed to have carried out.

They had made statements “they would have known were not fully truthful” and had failed to disclose documents which would have helped expose the truth.

“Their instinct throughout, until it was too late, was to cover up rather than seek out wrongdoing and discipline the perpetrators, as they also professed they would do after the criminal convictions. In failing to investigate properly, and by ignoring evidence of widespread wrongdoing, News International and its parent News Corporation exhibited wilful blindness,” the report said.

The directors of both companies, including Mr Murdoch and his son James, “should ultimately be prepared to take responsibility” for the failings.

Saying that House of Commons inquiries relied on truthful evidence the MPs found that News International and certain witnesses had “demonstrated contempt for that system in the most blatant fashion”.

“We note that it is for the House to decide whether a contempt has been committed and, if so, what punishment should be imposed,” they decided.

The inquiry will now table a motion before the full House of Commons asking it “to endorse our conclusions about misleading evidence”.

Last night, News Corp, which also publishes the Irish editions of The Sunday Times and The Sun, said it accepted that “hard truths” had emerged from the inquiry and that it had “already confronted and have acted on” the failings identified.