Could it be that Rupert won’t get to claim his place in the sulfur pit before he, or his organization, gets indicted on bribery charges in the US?
Yeah, I know. What a pity that would be, right? I mean, where would these paranoid old people get their daily dose of pee-in-your-depends hysterical fearmongering from?
Well, Beck’s TV station is running these days. And there’s always radio. I’m not sure Rupert, or his “news” network, would be missed, actually.
The new round of criminal charges brought in the UK against former senior News International editors has once again raised the prospect that Rupert Murdoch’s New York-based parent company may be prosecuted under US anti-bribery laws, and complicates the rehabilitation of his son James as a possible successor to lead the global media empire.
The charges brought against Rebekah Brooks, who ran Murdoch’s newspaper holdings in Britain, Andy Coulson, former editor of the now defunct News of the World, and two other former News International employees exposes the parent News Corporation to possible action under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The FCPA exists to prosecute US-domiciled companies for acts of bribery and corruption that they might commit abroad.
An official of the British ministry of defence, Bettina Jordan Barber, also faces trial for allegedly receiving £100,000 from Murdoch’s tabloid newspapers for information that led to a series of published stories. The allegation that money passed hands clearly falls within the legal remit of the FCPA.
Mike Koehler, professor of law at Southern Illinois school of law and author of the blog fcaprofessor.com, said the charges “would be hard for the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission to ignore. We have been hearing allegations for a year and a half now, now we clearly have charges against high ranking officials at a foreign subsidiary,” he said.
The new charges, and the allegation of bribery of a military official, come at a very sensitive time for the company. The media giant is preparing to split itself in two, separating the TV and broadcasting arm from the scandal-hit newspaper and publishing division.
The developments also bring to a crashing halt the recent perception in America that News Corporation had begun to recover its confidence after months on the defensive as a result of the phone-hacking scandal. Only on Monday, the New York Times ran an article headlined Clouds Lifting Over Murdoch, He’s Out to Buy Again.
News Corp has largely shrugged off the scandal in the US, where its shares have risen over 34% in the last year. At News Corp’s recent annual shareholder meeting in October, Murdoch comfortably saw off attempts to appoint an independent chairman to the company. James Murdoch has recently been tipped to head Fox Networks, the News Corp television division that includes its flagship Fox channel, home to The Simpsons and American Idol.
But the new charges will increase pressure on the company. Koehler said US authorities would be looking to see how high up the chain of command the bribery scandal reached. “The question will be what did James know and when did he know it,” he said. Ultimately he predicted News Corp would reach a settlement with the Justice Department rather than go to trial, but he said that News Corp faced some uncomfortable investigations in the coming months.
An organized crime syndicate can still be prosecuted under RICO, right? And the assets of that corrupt organization can be seized, if I remember the law correctly. Forget FCPA. Put FOX “News” up on the auction block.