News Corp. faces U.S. phone hacking suits

Brit lawyer to initiate legal action in States

LONDON — The phone hacking scandal that last week led to the resignation of BSkyB chairman James Murdoch is finally crossing the Atlantic.

British lawyer Mark Lewis, who represented the family of murdered British school girl Milly Dowler, whose phone was hacked by the News of the World, will take action in the U.S. on behalf of three alleged hacking victims.

Lewis said the three were a “well-known sports person,” a sports person not in the public eye and a U.S. citizen.

“The News of the World had thousands of people they hacked. Some of them were in America at the time, either travelling or resident there,” the lawyer told the BBC News Channel.

Lewis added: “The scandal as it is is not just then confined to the United Kingdom or to the United Kingdom companies like News International (publisher of the News of the World) and News Group Newspapers.

“This goes to the heartland of News Corporation and we’ll be looking at the involvement of the parent company in terms of claims there, and that is something that will be taken more seriously by perhaps the investors and shareholders in News Corporation.”

Rupert Murdoch’s reputation has been undermined by the hacking scandal in the U.K., while his influence with the British power elite looks to have been destroyed, but in the U.S. News Corp. and its chairman remain largely untainted by the controversy.

If Lewis’ U.S. actions succeed, the potential damage to News Corp.’s name is enormous.

The U.S. Department of Justice is already considering action against News Corp. under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which could result in fines of millions of dollars for News Corp.

Last week James Murdoch, until recently executive chairman of News International, ankled as chairman of U.K. paybox BSkyB.

The move was designed to distance him from what is expected to be a damning verdict of his handling of the affair by a British parliamentary committee whose report into the saga is due to be published soon.

Lewis will be attending a symposium on investigative journalism at the University of California, Berkeley, this weekend.

He will take part in a panel entitled “The Murdoch Effect: The News at Any Price?”

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