Friday 23 September 2011

Dowler lawyer pursues US legal action against News Corp


The solicitor who represented the family of Milly Dowler in their phone-hacking claims against News Corporation on Friday announced he has teamed up with US lawyers with a view to initiating proceedings targetting Rupert Murdoch and his son James. Mark Lewis of Taylor Hampton has instructed Norman Siegel, a New York-based lawyer who represents 20 9/11 families to seek witness statements from News Corp and directors including the Murdochs in relation to allegations that News of the World staff may have bribed police. He says he intends to assess whether he can launch a class action against News Corp using American foreign corruption laws, which make it illegal for US companies to pay bribes to government officials abroad. "There is a provision within US law, before you start an action to seek depositions from individuals, in this case, such as James Murdoch and Rupert Murdoch and other directors of News Corp," said Lewis. He added Siegel would examine allegations of not just police bribery but also phone hacking and "foreign malpractices." The move will be a fresh setback for News Corp which has been trying to insulate itself against contagion from the UK phone-hacking scandal that has engulfed its British publishing empire. Separately, it emerged that this week US prosecutors at the Department of Justice have written to Murdoch's News Corporation requesting information on alleged payments made to the British police by the News of the World. The DoJ is looking into whether the company may have violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). Under FCPA laws, American companies are banned from paying representatives of a foreign government to gain a commercial advantage. The decision to co-ordinate legal efforts on both sides of the Atlantic comes just days after News International confirmed it was in settlement talks with the parents of the murdered 13-year-old schoolgirl. News International is discussing a total package of around £3m including a personal donation from Rupert Murdoch of £1m to a charity of the Dowler's choice. News Corp declined to comment but it is understood that senior executives question whether there is any basis for Lewis's actions.