News Corp settles 36 phone-hacking cases, admits fault

Nathan Pensky · January 19, 2012 · Short URL:

Actor Jude Law among those who receive settlement from UK News Corp Division, News International

News International, the British division of News Corp, which has been long beleaguered with accusations of generating news via phone-hacking, reached court settlements with hacking victims Thursday. Listing among the 36 lawsuits were those of actor Jude Law, who received a reported $200,000 in compensation, and footballer Ashley Cole.

Awards were given on the basis of News International management having been aware of the phone-hacking, and trying to cover it up.

"No aspect of my private life was safe from intrusion by News Group Newspapers, including the lives of my children and the people who work for me," said Law, in a statement. "News Group also paid people to watch me and my house for days at a time and to follow me and those close to me, both in this country and abroad."

Previous to a renewed 2011 investigation, News Corp had long claimed that reported phone-hacking was the isolated work of a few employees, including the editor of now-closed paper News of the World Clive Goodman, who was convicted and sentenced to prison in 2007.

However after damning evidenced was unearthed in 2010, News International settled with eight claimants in 2011, including actress, and former girlfriend of Jude Law, Sienna Miller, as well as former footballer Andy Gray.

The biggest bombshell regarding News Corp's alleged phone-hacking, and that which has oft been cited as the key contributing factor to the subsequent shuttering of News of the World, was the hacking of phone messages of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler, in the process of news investigation of her disappearance, as well as the hacking of messages of slain Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans.

Both News Corp owner, Rupert Murdoch, and chief executive and News International chairman, James Murdoch, have testified before a UK Parliamentary committee during the ongoing phone-hacking investigation. James Murdoch recently resigned as director from two News Corp subsidiaries, News Group Newspapers and Times Newspapers.

The settlements reached on Thursday represent over half of the 60+ lawsuits currently filed in the continuing phone-hacking scandal, though others are expected to emerge.

News International lawyer Michael Silverleaf indicated at a recent hearing that the company was "ready, willing and able to settle" all claims, that trials would not be necessary, and that future compensation would be "generous." However, there are many privacy violation cases yet to be heard, including those of sports agent Sky Andrew, comedian Steve Coogan, and pop songstress Charlotte Church.

Payments made in Thursday's settlements are reportedly larger than are usually made in privacy-violation cases, likely due to the publicity surrounding them, because of celebrity involvement. One source told Business Week that the payments ranged from $7,700 to $155,00. Thursday's pay-outs come close to $1 million range, not including legal fees.

Representatives of those whose cases have yet to be heard have indicated that many more privacy violation claims will be made against News Corp, with one lawyer Mark Lewis, who has represented many of the phone-hacking victims, indicating that less than 1 percent of victims cases have been settled.

In other words, it seems that this legal battle is far from over.

[Image Credit: Telegraph UK]

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