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UPDATE: James Murdoch confidently and steadfastly maintained that he has been cooperative and fully forthcoming about what he knew and did not know when he testified at his previous appearance before MPs. Facing hostile questioning and bristling at suggestions the business under his supervision was like the mafia, Murdoch cooly but aggressively continues to maintain he was never informed of the specific contents of a damning email about the News Of The World‘s level of involvement or that there was any evidence of widespread phone-hacking. In a stark “they said/he said” contradiction of the former executives’ assertions, he reiterated that former News International lawyer Tom Crone and News Of The World former editor Colin Myler never showed him or disclosed to him all the legal documents surrounding the phone-hacking scandal. When asked about Crone and Myler’s assertions that he was informed, Murdoch said, “It is inconsistent and not right.” Furthermore, when he took over News Corp’s UK businesses, Murdoch said outgoing executive Les Hinton never discussed phone hacking with him. Frustrated by Murdoch’s insistence that none of his subordinates ever disclosed to him the full amount of any evidence they appear to have supplied his inquisitors, Tom Watson, long the Murdochs’ toughest and most persistent critic, countered: “You must be the first Mafia boss in history not to know he was running a criminal enterprise.”
LIVE-BLOGGING 1:26 PM: Paul Farrelly MP goes on the attack again, asking why he and Tom Watson MP were smeared in the News of the World. James denies being involved in another £1 million payoff to showbiz publicist Max Clifford, who represents a lot of reality TV stars. Farrelly comes back to why, if James thought royal reporter Clive Goodman was the sole rogue reporter, then why was he hacking the phone of a showbiz PR? James is asked if he would release any Queen’s Counsel’s opinion about the Max Clifford payoff, just as he has done for the Graham Taylor case.
1:01 PM James blames Tom Crone for hiring private investigators to trail Mark Lewis, the lawyer representing 9/11 phone-hacking victims. James admits what Crone did was “appalling … shocking” and that Crone did it without James’s knowledge. “The whole affair is not acceptable,” James says, who also apologises to inquisitor Tom Watson MP for having him tailed too.
12:56 PM: Louise Mensch MP, who has become a bit of a tabloid favourite over here, begins her cross-examination by saying she’s got to leave early to get her children out of school. “Good luck with that,” responds James. James denies that any other News International papers were involved in phone-hacking. James says he has no knowledge of 9/11 victims were hacked by News International papers.
12:51 PM: in what sounds a well-rehearsed speech, James admits he shares responsiblity for what went wrong. “Part of taking responsibility is making sure that those thngs don’t happen again.”
12:38 PM: Farrelly persists by asking why James must have been the only person in London who believed the single rogue reporter story. Farrelly says that News International published false statements in its newspapers about its phone-hacking innocence, despite Tom Crone and Colin Myler knowing they were wrong. Asked about Crone’s reliability as a witness, James ducks the question. “I believe this committee was given evidence by people without full possession of the facts,” says James diplomatically. He reiterates he was never shown any wider evidence about criminality. James is doing a sterling job of sticking to his guns under what must be unbelievable pressure. “If Crone and Myler are telling the truth, you’re not teling the truth. if you’re telling the truth, then they’re not telling the truth.” James admits their meeting was “muddled”.
12:35 PM: Paul Farrelly MP says that the News of the World‘s line of defence did not stack up because Gordon Taylor was such an insignificant public figure to demand such a huge settlement. If Clive Goodman was the “rogue” royal reporter, why was he hacking the boss of a soccer association’s phone? “Do you think your dad might have asked more questions than you asked?” Farrelly presses. “It’s remarkably uncurious. Are you so uncurious with all your other businesses at News Corp?” James sticks to his guns.
12:30 PM James says he has looked through his diary for records of conversations on May 27th and has found nothing. James is pressed to provide access to Tom Crone, ex-News of the World lawyer, and to Colin Myler and to emails and records currently kept by News International.
12:23 PM: “Do you not see this is pretty lax for somebody in your position?” asks Davies. “It’s been a huge focus,” says James.” Crucially for us to learn lessons. How can we learn on the ground in terms of operating governance, and improve transparency. All of the News International companies now have an internal board in place, and a compliance officer in place. Transparency wasn’t good enough,” says James.
12:17 PM: Philip Davies MP says that the way News International is run on this evidence has been “quite cavalier”. “The bit I have a problem with is that you defend yourself by saying, ‘This is the News of the World, it’s just a tiny part of News Corp,” says Davies. The MP says it’s “incredible” that James didn’t look deeper into issues surrounding the Gordon Taylor settlement, given the large sums involved.
12:12 PM: James is accused of being more vague second time around than the first time he faced MPs. James says that’s not his intention. There’s a distinct feel that once again the committee is getting hung up on forensic detail, rather than asking the broad, telling questions. If they’re trying to trip him up, it’s not working.
12:00 PM Asked why didn’t News International just go to court if James was so unaware that phone-hacking was going on, James answers that as far as the company was concerned, this was all in the past. Damian Collins MP sounds incredulous that such large sums could be paid out to Gordon Taylor without asking some deeper questions about why lawyers recommended settling at such a sum. Collins says, “It may not be the Mafia, but it certainly doesn’t sound like [trade magazine] Management Today.” James says the whole Gordon Taylor payout was arranged by Colin Myler, not he.
11:50 AM: Watson tells James, “You must be the first Mafia boss in history not to know he was running a criminal enterprise.”
11:46 AM: James says in hindsight it would have been better if the whole nature of Silverleaf’s counsel was made clear to him. Watson says he’s met Neville Thurlbeck who told him: “Just before Crone went to see Murdoch he wanted to know what the ‘For Neville’ email was about.” According to Thurlbeck, Crone knew all about the “For Neville” before going to see James Murdoch. Thurlbeck has maintained to Watson that Tom Crone DID show James Murdoch the crucial email.
11:42 AM: James says it was made clear to him that Gordon Taylor case would be lost, which is why he authorized a $1.4 million payment to settle the case. “It was a reasonable decision to make,” says James.
11:37 AM James says neither Crone nor Myler presented him with new evidence. “If counsel’s opinion had been more transparent to me that would have been more helpful. None of those things were made aware to me, and I was not aware of those things. The company relied too much on repeated reassurances and assertions from police.” Watson asks what “cancer” was James apparently referring to in Colin Myler’s note he made after the meeting? “It suggest there was a culture of phone-hacking talked about during that meeting with Myler,” Watson persists. Watson sounds incredulous that there was no mention of the “For Neville” email during the meeting. James admits that the “For Neville” was mentioned during the meeting, but not shown to him. James sounds very well briefed. James maintains nothing was mentioned about Michael Silverleaf’s devastating counsel that phone-hacking culture was widespread at News International. James’s strategy is to stick solidly to his guns.
11:23 AM Tom Watson MP asks to laughter if James has been arrested or has been on bail, allowing him to answer questions freely. James says Tom Crone’s key memorandum did not discuss widespread criminality. “The only substantive meeting took place on June 10,” reiterates James. James says Colin Myler’s written-up memorandum after the crucial meeting does not imply he knew anything about widespread phone-hacking. Watson, James’s fierced critic, keeps hammering away. James is starting to sound exasperated. “The only meeting was on the June 10 to discuss increasing the payment to Gordon Taylor … I recall leaving meeting saying they would increase that offer.” Watson asks the key question: whether James DID know phone-hacking was more widespread before the June 10 meeting. James denies this. “No evidence of wider spread phonehacking was shown to me as I have consistently testified both in person and in writing. None of those documents were shown to me previous to the meeting. I have testified very consistently about my knowledge of wider spread phone-hacking.” James says he was in India and Hong Kong the week before the June 10 meeting. James reiterates he did not mislead the committee “from individuals not in full possession of the facts”. Watson asks if Tom Crone misled the committee? James says Tom Crone misled the committee, as did Colin Myler, ex-editor of the News of the World.
11:18 AM Asked why News International denied any phone-hacking at first, James admits there was too much “pushing back”. “We relied on repeated assertions and reassurances from police for too long. If I knew then, what I know now — the details and import of the ‘For Neville’ documents then I would have acted in a different way.” Asked who should have reported these things to him, James says it was Colin Myler’s job to show him evidence. “It’s important to put the News of the World in the context of the business,” he says. It was the smallest newspaper in News International, which was itself the smallest News Corp in the European and Asian business … it’s impossible to micro-manage everything in a business of this scale.”
11:13 AM: James says he’s asked himself where were the alarm bells. “There was a tendency to react at the time that criticism was directed by commercial rivals. At no point do I think the company suffered from willful blindness.” James sounds very confident. “It’s clear to me that evidence supplied to me about the Taylor case was incomplete. That was something I’m very sorry for.”
11:10 AM “The whole company is humbled,” says James, who says he is learning from what has happened. “We’re trying to improve the business and leadership structures. It’s something I’m very sorry about.”
11:06 AM: James points out that arrest of Glenn Mulcaire that it was all before he joined the company. James admits that arrest of a journalist should have been concern to a chief executive.
11 AM: As questioning begins Chairman John Whittingdale asks James Murdoch if he was he aware of phone-hacking in light of the “For Neville” email. James says it was never described to him as the “For Neville” email. He maintains it was a short meeting and he was only told that the evidence was sufficient that they would lose in court against soccer boss Gordon Taylor and on that basis alone Murdoch says he authorized a larger settlement. He says no evidence of wider phone-hacking was discussed. James denies being shown the email or detailed lawyers’ notes about any of the evidence.
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