Huge caches of documents, emails found in hacking case


“Many tens of thousands” of documents and emails that might be evidence of phone hacking have been found by the publisher of the defunct tabloid News of the World, Britain’s High Court has been told.
The lawyer for News Group Newspapers, which had been ordered to search its internal mail system for any evidence of hacking of a list of public figures, said: “Two very large new caches of documents have been [found], which the current management were unaware of”.
The search was not yet finished, Michael Silverleaf, QC, told the court.
The news emerged before Mr Justice Vos, who was conducting pre-trial hearings for civil suits by phone-hacking claimants.
Mr Justice Vos said he wanted five “lead actions”, including suits by politicians and celebrities, to be the first considered by the courts. He accepted Sheila Henry, the mother of a victim of the London bombings of July 7, 2005, as a lead action as she was a victim of a crime and so represented “a new category of people”.
Mrs Henry’s 28-year-old son, Christian Small, died when his train was bombed by terrorists.
A News International spokesman said: “We take very seriously the matters raised in court and we are committed to working with civil claimants to resolve their cases.”
Separately, the company announced that James Murdoch, the chief executive of News International, was happy to reappear before the House of Commons media select committee that is investigating phone hacking.
MPs decided on Tuesday to recall him after two of his former colleagues disputed his claim that he did not know of a crucial phone-hacking email.
Meanwhile in the US, prominent News Corp investors added to their claims in a lawsuit accusing Rupert Murdoch of using the company as his “own private fiefdom” and accuse the company of widespread misconduct.
In March the shareholders launched a US legal action aimed at board members, including Rupert himself, his sons James and Lachlan, and the media empire’s chief operating officer, Chase Carey.
Leading the action is Amalgamated Bank, which manages $US12 billion ($11.7 billion) on behalf of investors and holds about 1 million News Corp shares, and the New Orleans Employees’ Retirement System and Central Laborers Pension Fund.
The latest amended complaint alleges “widespread misconduct” at News Corp subsidiaries including News America Marketing and the smart-card manufacturer NDS. The complaint says the two “have been accused by multiple parties of stealing computer technology, hacking into business plans and computers and violating the law through a wide range of anti-competitive behaviour”.
The complaint draws on several lawsuits in which News Corp subsidiaries were sued by rival businesses for alleged misconduct. In one case, a subsidiary called News America Marketing was accused of breaking into a rival’s computer system 11 times.
It reached settlements with three separate competitors totaling $US650 million.
The lawsuit claims NDS posted on the internet the code to the smart cards of a rival, allowing hackers to inflict more than $US1 billion worth of damage.
A lawyer for the complainants, Jay Eisenhofer, said the cases showed “a corporate culture that allows this sort of misconduct to take place over a very long period”.
There was no immediate response by News Corp.

First published in the Sydney Morning Herald.