News Corp. independent directors hire law firm

AP News
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Posted: Jul 19, 2011 7:38 PM
News Corp. independent directors hire law firm

News Corp.'s nine independent directors have hired corporate law firm Debevoise & Plimpton LLP to advise them on how to oversee the internal committee set up to investigate phone hacking and police bribery allegations at the company's U.K. newspapers, the law firm said Tuesday.

The hiring of the firm came over the weekend, ahead of a grilling by British lawmakers Tuesday of CEO Rupert Murdoch, his son, Deputy Chief Operating Officer James Murdoch, and Rebekah Brooks, the former editor of the now-closed tabloid at the heart of the crisis, News of the World.

The independent directors need legal advice that does not come directly from the company, said a person who was familiar with the matter and declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the situation.

On Tuesday, the independent directors, represented by Georgetown University law professor Viet Dinh, issued a statement saying "we are united in support of the senior management" and are "singularly aligned" with the management team.

Debevoise & Plimpton spokeswoman Camilla Jenkins said that two lawyers from the firm's white-collar crime and internal investigations practice are assigned to the case.

In testimony before the parliamentary committee, James Murdoch said News Corp. had relied on an outside law firm to wrongly conclude several years ago that phone hacking at the paper had been limited.

News Corp.'s 16-member board includes seven insiders, including Rupert Murdoch and his two sons, James Murdoch and Lachlan Murdoch. The others are Chief Operating Officer Chase Carey, Chief Financial Officer David DeVoe, education division chief Joel Klein, and senior adviser Arthur Siskind.

The nine independent directors include former Spanish president Jose Maria Aznar; Natalie Bancroft of the family that owned Dow Jones & Co. before News Corp. bought it in 2007; and venture capitalist Thomas Perkins, among others.

Perkins told The Associated Press late Monday that he would "personally make damn sure" that an internal probe set up to investigate the scandal remains independent.

The panel, called the Management and Standards Committee, is to be headed by commercial lawyer Anthony Grabiner and report to Klein, who will report to Dinh.