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UK lawyer to file hacking lawsuit against News Corp in U.S.

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 10:52 AM EDT, Sat September 24, 2011
The headquarters of News Corporation in Manhattan, New York.
The headquarters of News Corporation in Manhattan, New York.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Andy Coulson is taking legal action against News Corp., his lawyer says
  • Lawyer Mark Lewis says an initial hearing may take place in New York this fall
  • News Corp is the parent company of the publishers of News of the World
  • Outrage over claims of phone hacking by the newspaper's journalists led to its closure

London (CNN) -- A lawyer for numerous alleged victims of phone hacking by journalists has confirmed that he plans to launch legal action in the United States against media mogul Rupert Murdoch's News Corp.

Mark Lewis told CNN Friday he expects an initial hearing to be held in New York in about two to three months, as he seeks to begin legal claims in the United States.

This summer's scandal around claims of phone hacking by journalists working for the now-defunct News of the World -- run by News International, the British arm of News Corp. -- rocked public confidence in the media, police and politicians.

Police in London are now investigating the hacking claims as well as allegations of bribery of police.

Senior News Corp. executives have denied that wrongdoing among the company's staff was widespread.

Rupert Murdoch deals with another crisis

Separately, former News of the World editor Andy Coulson has filed a lawsuit against News Corp., his lawyer, Jo Rickards, confirmed to CNN Friday. Rickards did not give elaborate on the subject of the lawsuit.

Coulson, who resigned as editor when two News of the World employees were jailed for hacking royal voice mail in 2007, went on to work as Prime Minister David Cameron's spokesman, but resigned when the police launched their new phone-hacking investigation in January this year. He denies knowledge of wrongdoing while he was editor.

He is among a dozen people to have been arrested and released on bail by police investigating claims that many celebrities, politicians and victims of crime had their phones hacked.

Lewis' clients include the family of Milly Dowler, a missing teenager whose voice mail was allegedly hacked before she was found murdered. Public outrage over the allegations led News International to shut down News of the World in July.

"We have been speaking to U.S. lawyers to make applications to U.S. courts in order to assist the investigation of this matter and are looking to pursue legal action on the basis of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in the United States, whereby a holding company can be liable for practices outside the jurisdiction where the offence is said to have taken place," Lewis said.

"Proceedings will be issued in the U.S. where we will seek information from the company's directors about those issues and about corporate governance."

This action was being pursued "because it is in our clients' interests to pursue their cases as thoroughly and properly as possible," Lewis said.

He added that "compensation is likely to be higher from U.S. courts than courts in the UK."

John Kelly, a lawyer at Schillings law firm, which represents Steve Coogan and other suspected celebrity hacking victims, told CNN its clients have not yet joined the lawsuit against News Corp. in the United States but are interested in the idea.

Another lawyer for a number of alleged hacking victims, Mark Thomson, told CNN his clients were pursuing claims in the English civil courts but did not intend to take action in U.S. courts.

Earlier this week, a News International statement confirmed it was involved in "advanced negotiations with the Dowler family regarding their compensation settlement."

CNN's Jonathan Wald and Laura Smith-Spark contributed to this report.

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