The Department of Justice is preparing subpoenas as part of its inquiry into whether News Corp. employees broke anti-bribery laws or whether News of the World employees hacked the phones of 9/11 victims, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.
The subpoenas still would have to be cleared by senior DOJ officials, the Journal said.
Lawmakers on Capitol Hill indicated earlier this week that the DOJ had launched a preliminary inquiry. Last week, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D.-W.Va.), Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and other lawmakers sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder asking the department to investigate allegations that the company may have violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which prohibits giving a foreign government official anything of value in order to obtain business or gain an unfair advantage.
The FBI already has launched a preliminary inquiry into claims that the phones of 9/11 victims may have been hacked, but Rockefeller and Boxer also asked the DOJ to investigate those allegations.
It’s unclear whether there is any more to the 9/11 claims than a report that appeared in the Daily Mail, which quoted an unnamed source who was in turn relaying information from an unnamed former New York police officer who said he was approached by News of the World journalists offering payment for phone information about 9/11 victims.
The FCPA violations are tied to allegations that News of the World employees bribed British police for information about celebrities and other public figures. Rockefeller and Boxer also want the Securities and Exchange Commission to look in to those claims. Typically, the SEC
will see whether a company violated reporting requirements, in that any payments the company made would have to be disclosed on the company’s books.
The law went into effect in 1977, largely as a way of preventing companies from bribing public officials to win foreign government contracts. But the statute has been more broadly applied in recent years.
A News Corp. rep could not immediately be reached for comment late Thursday. An unnamed exec told the Journal, which is owned by News Corp., that the subpoenas were a ”fishing expedition with no evidence to support it.”