U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller IV, D-W.Va., want Dow Jones’ top editorial watchdogs to cough up proof that the British phone-hacking scandal now rocking parent company News Corp. didn’t extend to our shores.
The senators specifically asked for information about the hiring of Leslie Hinton, who stepped down last week as Dow Jones’ CEO and publisher of the Wall Street Journal. Earlier, Hinton had been chairman of News International and admitted in testimony before Parliament that he knew of and OK’ed payments in 2007 to a private investigator and a reporter after they were convicted of illegal phone hacking.
The special committee to which Boxer and Rockefeller wrote was created during News Corp.’s 2007 purchase of Dow Jones to ensure the “continued journalistic and editorial integrity and independence of Dow Jones’ publications and services,” and has special access to all of the company’s records.
“As you know, allegations of illegal phone hacking and bribery in the United Kingdom at properties owned by News Corporation, a United States-based company, have outraged people around the world,” the senators wrote. “The American people need to be reassured that this kind of misconduct has not occurred in the United States and that senior executives at News Corporation properties in our country were not aware of or complicit in any wrongdoing.”
Read the full text of the letter, after the jump…
July 20, 2011
Members of the Special Committee
Dow Jones and Company
1211 Avenue of the Americas
New York, New York 10281
Dear Members of the Special Committee:
As you know, allegations of illegal phone hacking and bribery in the United Kingdom at properties owned by News Corporation, a United States-based company, have outraged people around the world. Ten individuals, including senior News Corporation executives, have been arrested and other top News Corporation officials have resigned.
The American people need to be reassured that this kind of misconduct has not occurred in the United States and that senior executives at News Corporation properties in our country were not aware of or complicit in any wrongdoing.
As members of the Special Committee in charge of overseeing the operation of the Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones and Company properties, your governing charter gives you a special responsibility to assure the “continued journalistic and editorial integrity and independence of Dow Jones’ publications and services.” The Special Committee, which was created as “a condition to the willingness of the Bancroft Investors to execute…the Merger Agreement” has unique authority since your charter provides “access [to]…all books, records, facilities, and personnel of the Company.”
We were pleased to learn that the Special Committee will take steps to ensure that no illegal activity took place at Dow Jones and Company publications. But we were surprised that the Committee’s statement appears to foreclose any further investigation, despite the fact that the former chief executive officer of Dow Jones and former publisher of the Wall Street Journal served as the top official at News International while illegal phone hacking occurred at its newspapers.
As you know, Leslie Hinton was hired as publisher of the Wall Street Journal and chief executive officer of News Corporation in December 2007. From 1995 through 2007, he served as Executive Chairman of News International, a foreign subsidiary of News Corporation that oversaw News of the World and other publications that are now under scrutiny.
On July 20, 2011, the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee released a comprehensive report on the phone hacking scandal. The Committee noted that “it is almost impossible to escape the conclusion…that [News International] were deliberately trying to thwart a criminal investigation” during Mr. Hinton’s tenure as Executive Chairman. This condemnation of News International’s actions under Mr. Hinton’s leadership of the company is very troubling.
In March 2007 Mr. Hinton appeared before the House of Commons of the United Kingdom to testify about phone hacking at News International’s News of the World paper that resulted in the imprisonment of one of its reporters, Clive Goodman, and a private investigator, Glenn Mulcaire. Mr. Hinton testified that the company had conducted a full investigation and determined that Mr. Goodman was the only employee involved in phone hacking. In 2009, Mr. Hinton again testified on the matter before Parliament and said that “there was never any evidence delivered to me that suggested that the conduct of Clive Goodman spread beyond him.” Mr. Hinton also admitted that he had authorized payments to both Mr. Goodman and Mr. Mulcaire after both had been sentenced for their role in illegal phone hacking.
Evidence has recently been discovered that raises questions about Mr. Hinton’s 2007 and 2009 testimony. Despite Mr. Hinton’s assertions that the phone hacking was limited, British police now say that as many as 4,000 people have had their information illegally hacked by News of the World. Reported targets of phone hacking include a missing 13-year old girl, the families of British soldiers who died in Iraq and Afghanistan, the families of the victims of the 2005 London bombings, and former Prime Minister Gordon Brown and his family. In the United States, the Department of Justice has acknowledged that it has commenced an investigation to determine whether News of the World attempted to gain access to the phone records of victims of the attacks of September 11, 2001.
On July 15, 2011, Mr. Hinton announced his resignation as publisher of the Wall Street Journal and chief executive officer of Dow Jones and Company, while insisting that he was “ignorant of what apparently happened” at News of the World.
As the Chairman and a senior member of the Commerce Committee of the United States Senate, we urge the Special Committee to publicly address the following issues:
1.) Will the Special Committee conduct a broader investigation that includes an examination of whether current or former senior Wall Street Journal or Dow Jones executives had knowledge of or a role in alleged criminal activity at News Corporation publications?
2.) Did the Special Committee investigate Mr. Hinton’s knowledge of alleged criminal activity at News International before or after he was named publisher of the Wall Street Journal and CEO of Dow Jones?
3.) Did any member of the Special Committee or other senior executives at the Wall Street Journal or Dow Jones express any concerns regarding the hiring of Mr. Hinton given his role in overseeing News International’s News of the World when its employees engaged in criminal phone hacking?
This information will help give Americans confidence that the illegal activity that appears to have taken place at News Corporation in the United Kingdom did not spread to News Corporation entities in the United States.
United States Senator
John D. Rockefeller IV
United States Senator