Hacking scandal withering report flays Rupert Murdoch
Media mogul Rupert Murdoch is not "a fit person" to run a major international corporation, a committee of MPs said today.
In a devastating report into the News of the World phone-hacking scandal, the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee accused the News Corp chief of exhibiting "wilful blindness" towards the wrongdoing in his organisation.
It said News Corp had been guilty of "huge failings of corporate governance" and that throughout its instinct had been "to cover up rather than seek out wrongdoing and discipline the perpetrators".
The report accused three former senior executives of News Corp's UK newspaper publishing arm News International - Les Hinton, Colin Myler, and Tom Crone - of misleading the committee during its inquiries into the scandal.
And it said that Rupert Murdoch's son James had demonstrated "wilful ignorance" about what had been going on, which "clearly raises questions of competence" on his part.
The most damning judgment was reserved for Rupert Murdoch.
"On the basis of the facts and evidence before the committee, we conclude that, if at all relevant times Rupert Murdoch did not take steps to become fully informed about phone hacking, he turned a blind eye and exhibited wilful blindness to what was going on in his companies and publications," the report said.
"This culture, we consider, permeated from the top throughout the organisation and speaks volumes about the lack of effective corporate governance at News Corporation and News International.
"We conclude, therefore, that Rupert Murdoch is not a fit person to exercise the stewardship of a major international company."
The committee was split on party lines over a number of key findings - including the verdict on Rupert Murdoch - with the Tories voting against and Labour and the Lib Dems in favour.
The committee found that Mr Hinton, the former News International chairman, had misled it when he gave evidence in 2009 about payments made to former royal correspondent Clive Goodman, who was jailed in 2007 for phone hacking.
And it said that Mr Myler, former News of the World editor, and Mr Crone, the paper's former legal manager, misled it over their knowledge that other staff were involved in phone hacking.
It said it could now ask the House of Commons to decide whether there had been a contempt of Parliament and what the punishment should be.
"The integrity and effectiveness of the select committee system relies on the truthfulness and completeness of the oral and written evidence submitted," it said.
"The behaviour of News International and certain witnesses in this affair demonstrated contempt for that system in the most blatant fashion."
The committee said it was "simply astonishing" that News International - including the Murdochs - had sought to maintain that phone hacking was down to one "rogue reporter".
The company continued to stick with the line even after James Murdoch authorised a £700,000 payout to Gordon Taylor, chief executive of the Professional Footballers' Association.
"Had James Murdoch been more attentive to the correspondence that he received at the time, he could have taken action on phone hacking in 2008 and this committee could have been told the truth in 2009," the report said.
It said that it was only at the end of 2010 that the company accepted that its "containment approach" had failed and that it no longer had "any shred of credibility".
"Since then, News Corporation's strategy has been to lay the blame on certain individuals, particularly Colin Myler, Tom Crone and Jonathan Chapman, and lawyers, whilst striving to protect more senior figures, most notably James Murdoch," the report said.
"Even if there was a 'don't ask, don't tell' culture at News International, the whole affair demonstrates huge failings of corporate governance at the company and its parent, News Corp."
Hacking Scandal Timeline
These are the key events in the phone hacking scandal:
:: January 26 - News of the World royal editor Clive Goodman jailed for four months and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire for six months after they admit intercepting royal aides' voicemail messages.
The paper's editor Andy Coulson resigns, saying he takes "ultimate responsibility" for what happened.
:: May 31 - Then-opposition leader David Cameron appoints Mr Coulson Conservative Party communications director.
:: June - Private meeting between News of the World editor Colin Myler, in-house lawyer Tom Crone and James Murdoch, the chairman of the paper's publisher News International. Mr Murdoch agrees a payment to settle the phone-hacking claim brought by Professional Footballers Association chief executive Gordon Taylor, costing the company £425,000. Myler and Crone later claim that they told Murdoch at this meeting of the existence of the "For Neville" email which showed that hacking went beyond a single rogue reporter, though he denies this.
:: July 9 - The Guardian reports News International has paid more than £1 million to settle cases that threatened to reveal evidence of wider phone hacking and imposed gagging clauses on victims.
Scotland Yard says it will not launch a new investigation into the allegations, but the Crown Prosecution Service announces a review of material provided by police in 2006.
:: July 21 - Mr Coulson tells MPs on the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee that things went "badly wrong" under his editorship of the News of the World, but insists he knew nothing about alleged phone hacking.
:: February 24 - A Culture Committee report finds no evidence Mr Coulson knew about hacking at the News of the World, but says it is "inconceivable" that no one apart from Goodman was aware.
:: May 11 - Mr Coulson becomes head of the new coalition Government's media operation after Mr Cameron becomes Prime Minister.
:: September 5 - New York Times publishes article claiming Mr Coulson knew staff were carrying out illegal phone hacking and raising questions about how vigorously Scotland Yard pursued the case.
:: January 21 - Mr Coulson announces he is standing down as Downing Street communications chief, saying controversy over hacking was making his job impossible.
:: January 26 - Scotland Yard launches a fresh inquiry, called Operation Weeting, after receiving "significant new information" from News International.
:: April 8 - News International admits liability and apologises "unreservedly" to public figures whose phones were hacked.
:: July 4 - The Guardian reports that the News of the World hacked the mobile phone of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler after she went missing in 2002.
:: July 6 - Mr Cameron announces a public inquiry, chaired by Lord Justice Leveson. Rupert Murdoch describes the phone hacking allegations as "deplorable and unacceptable" but backs Rebekah Brooks to continue as News International chief executive.
:: July 7 - News International chairman James Murdoch announces the closure of the News of the World.
:: July 8 - Mr Coulson arrested and bailed on suspicion of phone hacking and corruption.
:: July 10 - News of the World shuts after 168 years.
:: July 13 - Mr Murdoch's News Corporation withdraws £8 billion bid to take over satellite broadcaster BSkyB.
:: July 14 - Former News of the World executive editor Neil Wallis arrested on suspicion of phone hacking, putting Scotland Yard under pressure to explain why it employed him as a PR consultant in 2009/10.
:: July 15 - Mrs Brooks resigns as News International chief executive.
:: July 17 - Mrs Brooks arrested and bailed on suspicion of phone hacking and corruption.
Sir Paul Stephenson resigns as Metropolitan Police Commissioner after coming under fire for hiring Mr Wallis.
:: July 18 - Scotland Yard Assistant Commissioner John Yates stands down following criticism of his handling of a review of the initial phone-hacking probe.
Former News of the World journalist and whistle-blower Sean Hoare found dead at his home.
:: July 19 - Rupert and James Murdoch, along with Mrs Brooks, give evidence to the Commons Culture Committee, insisting they were not aware of culture of hacking at the News of the World. Describing it as "the most humble day of my life", Mr Murdoch says he was "let down" by staff.
:: July 28 - Police tell Sara Payne, whose eight-year-old daughter Sarah was murdered in 2000, that her phone might have been hacked by the News of the World.
:: September 6 - Mr Myler and Mr Crone tell the Culture Committee they informed James Murdoch in 2008 about the "For Neville" email. Mr Murdoch denies their claim.
:: October 21 - Rupert Murdoch deflects attempts by investors to remove him as chairman of News Corporation at the company's annual meeting. Sons James and Lachlan remain as directors.
:: November 8 - The BBC reports that the News of the World paid private detective Derek Webb to spy on Prince William, the parents of Harry Potter actor Daniel Radcliffe and a host of other high-profile individuals.
:: November 10 - In a repeat appearance at the Culture Committee, James Murdoch denies having seen the "For Neville" email in 2008. Committee member and Labour MP Tom Watson accuses him of acting like a "mafia boss".
:: November 14 - The Leveson Inquiry, sitting at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, starts hearing evidence about the culture, practice and ethics of the British press.
:: December 12 - Scotland Yard lawyer tells Leveson it is "unlikely" that journalists erased messages from Milly Dowler's phone.
:: January 6 - Mrs Brooks's former personal assistant, Cheryl Carter, arrested and bailed on suspicion of attempting to pervert the course of justice.
:: January 19 - The High Court hears that dozens of celebrities and politicians, including Jude Law and Lord Prescott, have now settled damages claims with News of the World..
:: January 28 - Four former and current Sun journalists and a serving Metropolitan Police officer arrested and bailed over alleged illegal police payments.
:: February 7 - The Metropolitan Police admits it failed to warn potential victims of phone hacking at the time of its original investigation.
:: February 8 - Steve Coogan and Paul Gascoigne are among 15 victims who settle phone-hacking damages claims. Singer Charlotte Church refuses to settle.
:: February 11 - Eight people, including five employees from The Sun, a serving member of the armed forces, a Ministry of Defence employee and a Surrey Police officer, arrested and bailed in connection with Operation Elveden investigation into inappropriate payments to police and public officials.
News International chief executive Tom Mockridge tells staff of personal assurance from Rupert Murdoch of his "total commitment" to continue to own and publish The Sun.
:: February 13 - Sun associate editor Trevor Kavanagh accuses police of treating the paper's journalists like "members of an organised crime gang" and says there are concerns at the way evidence passed to the police by the company's Management and Standards Committee (MSC) is being used.
:: February 17 - After flying to London to take charge, Rupert Murdoch declares his "unwavering support" for Sun journalists and lifts suspensions of arrested staff.
:: February 26 - Sun on Sunday launched.
:: March 14 - In a letter to MPs, James Murdoch accepts share of responsibility for not uncovering wrong-doing at the News of the World sooner, but insists: "I did not mislead Parliament."
:: April 19 - Mr Watson claims Mrs Brooks was bugged by her former employers, as he launches book on the scandal Dial M For Murdoch.
:: April 24 - Emails released as James Murdoch gives evidence to the Leveson Inquiry raise questions over links between Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt and News Corp during BSkyB bid.
:: April 26 - Rupert Murdoch tells the Leveson Inquiry he was the victim of a "cover-up" over the extent of hacking at the News of the World.
:: May 1 - Culture Committee publishes report finding that Rupert Murdoch exhibited "wilful blindness" to what was going on in his media empire and "is not a fit person to exercise the stewardship of a major international company". News International corporately misled the committee repeatedly about the extent of phone-hacking, says the report.