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Ex-News Corp. executive to testify again in hacking scandal

Les Hinton, a former top publishing executive at News Corp. and longtime friend of its chief executive, Rupert Murdoch, has been called by a committee of British Parliament to answer a fresh round of questions this month about the phone hacking scandal roiling the media conglomerate.

Hinton served for a dozen years as executive chairman of News Corp.'s British newspaper unit, News International, when the hacking allegedly occurred. He left in late 2007 to become chief executive of Dow Jones, publisher of the Wall Street Journal.

Three months ago, Hinton resigned, citing widening allegations of illicit eavesdropping by reporters for the now-shuttered London tabloid News of the World. He said he had no knowledge of any such misconduct. The parliamentary committee on culture, media and sport will question him Oct. 24 for a third time.

“I have watched with sorrow from New York as the News of the World story unfolded,” Hinton said in a statement released in July. “The pain caused to innocent people is unimaginable.... That I was ignorant of what apparently happened is irrelevant and in the circumstances I feel it is proper for me to resign from News Corp.”

Hinton told the committee in March 2007 that he believed that Clive Goodman, the News of the World journalist jailed for phone hacking, was a rogue reporter who had acted alone. As allegations surfaced in 2009 that the conduct may have been more pervasive, Hinton told the committee that he had never received any evidence “that suggested the conduct had spread beyond one journalist.”

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The committee will question Hinton via a video link from the U.S., according to the British newspaper the Guardian. Julian Pike, an attorney at law firm Farrer & Co. representing News International, will be questioned by the committee Oct. 19, along with Mark Lewis, an attorney for phone hacking victims, the publication reported.

Murdoch’s son James Murdoch, who has been in charge of News Corp.'s European and Asian operations since 2007, is also expected to go before the committee again soon to answer more questions about when he first learned of the cellphone hacking. When he initially appeared with his father before the panel in July, James Murdoch said he was not aware of the widespread nature of the illegal activity until late last year.

Two of his former subordinates quickly challenged James Murdoch’s statements to Parliament, saying they had shared a crucial piece of evidence with him in 2008.

An influential firm that advises shareholders on proxy matters recommended that they vote Rupert Murdoch and 12 others off News Corp.'s board of directors, including James and his brother Lachlan, when the company holds its annual meeting Oct. 21 in Los Angeles.

Institutional Shareholder Services on Monday called for an overhaul of the board, saying the hacking scandal signaled a “failure of board stewardship.” A News Corp. spokeswoman strenuously disagreed with the recommendation. In a regulatory filing, the company argued that all 15 current board members should be reelected, saying that they and senior management are “acting decisively to get to the bottom of what happened.”

dawn.chmielewski@latimes.com


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