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News Corp Shareholders Claim Board Knew of Hacking

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Despite ongoing assertions to the contrary, the News Corp board did, in fact know its U.S. subsidiaries were hacking competitors’ computers as far back as 10 years ago, according to new court papers filed by News Corp shareholders yesterday.

A trustee for several investment funds, the New Orleans Employees’ Retirement System, and Central Laborers Pension Fund are leading the plaintiffs who seek unspecified damages from the company’s top managers and directors, including Washington, DC, lawyer Viet Dinh and former President of Spain Jose Maria Aznar, reports Reuters.

In addition to hacking by the firm’s U.K journalists, shareholders accuse News Corp of being aware of improper activities at News America Marketing and NDS Group, its two U.S. subsidiaries, said Reuters, citing the lawsuit. “For more than a decade, News Corp subsidiaries have engaged in highly improper practices that have subjected News Corp to great financial and reputational damage,” the complaint said, according to Reuters.

The lawsuit goes on to say that the firm’s board, “has not lifted a finger” to manage Chairman and Chief Executive Rupert Murdoch’s activities, although specific warnings were made about News Corp’s illegal business practices, said Reuters.

This is just the latest legal challenge facing News Corp since the U.K. hacking scandal broke. In addition to criminal probes in the U.K., it is facing investigations by the U.S. Justice Department and one FBI probe.

The Massachusetts Laborers’ Pensions and Annuity Funds also filed a lawsuit on July 15th seeking recovery of “millions of dollars” in losses and accusing Rupert Murdoch and the board of “failure to take any action to investigate, control, and limit the fallout from the hacking scandal” that “caused the company to lose billions of dollars in value,” according to NewsInferno.

Just prior, the Central Laborers Pension Fund of Jacksonville, Illinois; the New Orleans City Employees’ Retirement System; and Amalgamated Bank amended a lawsuit filed March 17 against News Corp directors in which the firm was accused of nepotism said NewsInferno. The complaint, amended July 8, accuses Murdoch and his firm’s directors of breach of fiduciary oversight and corporate governance failures related to the phone hacking debacle. Allegations also include that the plaintiffs suffered losses of “hundreds of millions of dollars, if not billions” in shareholder value, said NewsInferno.

In all, said Reuters, News America Marketing has been the subject of five lawsuits. Most have to do with anti-competitive behavior allegations, say shareholders, who say the litigation forced resulted in over $650 million in settlements to three competitors, said Reuters.

One lawsuit, filed by competitor—Floorgraphics—claims News America hacked into its computer system on 11 occasions. That lawsuit involved testimony by its founder alleging that, in 1999, News America Chief Executive Officer Paul Carlucci, told him, “If you ever get into any of our businesses, I will destroy you…. I work for a man who wants it all, and doesn’t understand anybody telling him he can’t have it all,” said Reuters. A few days into the trial, the case settled when News America agreed to purchase Floorgraphics for $29.5 million.

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