The news comes from a statement from Fox and News Corp General Counsel Gerson Zweifach. The Justice Department has told the companies that “it has completed its investigation of voicemail interception and payments to public officials in London, and is declining to prosecute either company.” He adds that the two operations controlled by Rupert Murdoch “are grateful that this matter has been concluded and acknowledge the fairness and professionalism of the Department of Justice throughout this investigation.”
This puts to rest one question lingering on the minds of Murdoch watchers since 2011, when news broke that his reporters at News Of The World and other UK-based tabloids had hacked into phones and paid police for secret information. Although most of the action was in Britain, the Justice Department explored the possibility that some hacking might have taken place in the U.S. — and that Murdoch’s New York-based company (this was before he split Fox and News Corp) violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act by bribing UK officials.
It would have been a shock if the DOJ had acted. The case has appeared to be on the back burner for years. Experts were divided on whether the federal agency could go after Murdoch with a law designed mostly to prevent U.S. companies from using bribes to secure contracts. And last May a federal judge formally dismissed the only U.S.-based phone-hacking suit against News Corp, one filed in June 2013 by a stunt double for Angelina Jolie.
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Even the UK prosecutions have resulted in fewer convictions than expected. In June, Rebekah Brooks, the flame-haired former head of Murdoch’s print operations there, was found not guilty on five charges related to the hacking scandal that resulted in the 2011 shuttering of the News Of The World. Her successor, Andy Coulson — who became communications chief to Prime Minister David Cameron after leaving the Murdoch publication — was found guilty of conspiring to hack phones while he ran the News Of The World.
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