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What Tom Watson told Rupert Murdoch at News Corp's AGM

By Jonathan Walker on Oct 21, 11 06:17 PM in Politics

Black Country MP Tom Watson (Lab West Bromwich East) told News Corp boss Rupert Murdoch that his company faced a new scandal as devastating as the phone hacking scandal, when he travelled to Los Angeles to confront the media mogul in person.

He took part in News Corporation's annual general meeting in the US, after being appointed as a proxy by the US trade union organisation AFL-CIO, which owns a small amount of News Corp shares.

Mr Watson, who led the campaign to expose phone hacking by journalists on the News of the World, the former Sunday tabloid owned by News Corp's subsidiary News International, said police were investigating allegations that private investigators employed by the newspaper group hacked computers.

Referring to Glen Mulcaire, the investigator who was convicted of illegally intercepting phone messages in 2007, he said News Corp faced a "Mulcaire 2".

The MP also accused News Corp of employing investigators to impersonate a former Prime Minister (presumably Gordon Brown) and Illegally obtain information from former army intelligence officers.

Some investors, including Catholic organisation Christian Brothers Investment Services, are calling for the post of Chief Executive and Chairman to be separated. At the moment, Rupert Murdoch holds both roles, but they want an independent Chairman.

The spokeswoman for Christian Brothers Investment Services told the meeting that their motion was backed by the Church of England, which apparently holds News Corp shares.

As I write, the meeting is still happening.

Here's what Mr Watson said:

"As you have pointedly said, you are co-operating with the phone hacking scandal in the UK, which has got 200 police officers on the case as we speak.

"But they are also looking at other allegations that range from conspiring to pervert the course of justice, executives committing perjury, and bribery of public officials including police officers.

"As you said the scandal started with the evidence of a single private investigator Glen Mulcaire, but the police are now investigating at least three others who stand accused of variously impersonating the former Prime Minister, targeting the former Queen and illegally . . .

[At this point Mr Watson was interrupted briefly, but then continued]

". . . and illegally obtaining information from former army intelligence officers.

"One of them at least did this by hacking computers.

"You have not told your shareholders that in the UK, the Serious Organised Crime Agency holds the hard drives of a number of these private investigators and News Corp is potentially facing a Mulcaire 2 as the victims of computer hacking begin to take civil litigation cases for illegal invasions of privacy.

"You haven't told any of your investors about what is to come. I have to say Mr Murdoch, if I know about this then with all the resources that you are putting in to clearing up the scandal, you must know about this too.

"There isn't the corporate governance structures that will prevent these kind of scandals happening again. And I would hope you could at least respond to some of the independent investors and reassure your readers and customers in the UK and beyond that you are going to put this matter right?"

Rupert Murdoch told him: "I think I have assured you that I am going to put these things right.

"What happened a few years ago was absolutely wrong and I have said so, and I have said that we're all ashamed of it.

"But, these recent rumours you speak about have all been worked by us with the police. In fact, 90 per cent of what the police knows comes from all the searches of e-mails and tens of thousands of things that we are supplying them with.

"So that's the position. We will put this right."

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Jonathan Walker

Jonathan Walker - The Birmingham Post's political editor
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David Kuczora

David Kuczora - A PR consultant working in Birmingham and living in the 'burbs
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