Jaw Dropping Stories from England

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Graeme Robertson/Getty Images

This just keeps getting crazier. First up is the story of John Yates, London Metropolitan police assistant commissioner, who resigned today:

John Yates resigns from Met police over phone-hacking scandal

Yates’ resignation is following an even bigger shocker of London Metro Chief of police Sir Paul Stephenson’s resignation yesterday:

Sir Paul Stephenson quits as Met faces toughest challenge in a lifetime

There is speculation that British Prime Minister David Cameron is going to pay a price for his judgment with all of these shady characters:

How Paul Stephenson and PM fell out over hacking scandal

In the states, things are just starting to get interesting.

This New York Times Mediadecoder blog post (not sure if this post is behind the pay wall, YMMV) has Les Hinton’s resignation letter to Rupert Murdoch and a letter to the staff of The Wall Street Journal.

David Carr in the New York Times posted a fantastic piece detailing troubles for one of News Corp.’s marketing companies, News America, outside of the phone hacking scandal:

In 2009, a federal case in New Jersey brought by a company called Floorgraphics went to trial, accusing News America of, wait for it, hacking its way into Floorgraphics’s password protected computer system.

The complaint summed up the ethos of News America nicely, saying it had “illegally accessed plaintiff’s computer system and obtained proprietary information” and “disseminated false, misleading and malicious information about the plaintiff.”

The complaint stated that the breach was traced to an I.P. address registered to News America and that after the break-in, Floorgraphics lost contracts from Safeway, Winn-Dixie and Piggly Wiggly.

Much of the lawsuit was based on the testimony of Robert Emmel, a former News America executive who had become a whistle-blower. After a few days of testimony, the News Corporation had heard enough. It settled with Floorgraphics for $29.5 million and then, days later, bought it, even though it reportedly had sales of less than $1 million.

But the problems continued, and keeping a lid on News America turned out to be a busy and expensive exercise. At the beginning of this year, it paid out $125 million to Insignia Systems to settle allegations of anticompetitive behavior and violations of antitrust laws. And in the most costly payout, it spent half a billion dollars in 2010 on another settlement, just days before the case was scheduled to go to trial. The plaintiff, Valassis Communications, had already won a $300 million verdict in Michigan, but dropped the lawsuit in exchange for $500 million and an agreement to cooperate on certain ventures going forward.

Which makes the $1.5 million that Rupert Murdoch’s companies have paid out so far in the phone scandal seem like paltry corporate table leavings.

For more background and a handy visual timeline of Mr. Murdoch, The New York Times Magazine has a pretty good one here. The Guardian has a more textual timeline that details the phone hacking arrests beginning in April of 2011.

Additional links:
Jeff Jarvis of BuzzMachine has this excellent post detailing possible outcomes for News Corp.

  • Di Parkhouse

    There’s nothing to really question about David Cameron’s choice to associate with such people. Like attracts like. No one is surprised. Disgusted, yes. Surprised, no.

  • blurb

    From my position as an outsider, this is heavy stuff, definitely reminiscent of Watergate era Nixon. Minus the scumbag media angle.

    I expect a ton of lawsuits from celebrities over phone hacking. Don’t know if the legal environment in England will help these or hinder them, but I can’t imagine a celebrity who was maligned holding back at this point. Unless News International/News Corp. goes bust. Which is starting to look more and more like a very real possibility.

  • James

    The story has gained real momentum, not least because every other media outlet in the UK smells blood in the water.

    The situation with the Police was inevitable. Since 1997, the Police have measured their performance more against public perception than reality. If you gave the brass a choice between actually reducing violent crime, or securing a positive news story about their efforts to reduce violent crime – they’d bite your arm off at the elbow trying to secure that headline. It is no surprise, then, that senior officers have cosied up to media executives in an attempt to influence their reporting. I doubt they ever expected it to bite them in the behind quite as fiercely as it has done.  

  • Tish Merritt

    I just can’t believe the leak is actually happening! I remember the first story I heard concerning all of this…people were more worried for the Prime Minister going after such a media giant–less on the actual crimes because power usually crushes truth. THIS is crazy! People gettin’ brave…more and more news actually reporting news. My head just might explode!!!

  • Lindy_

    whistle-blower journo Sean Hoare found dead this afternoon as well! Crazy stuff going on over here!

  • Robert Pham

    Cynical view: the only good to come out of this debacle will be the inevitable Hollywood movie based-on-the-true-story featuring British actors.

  • minxlj

    Anyone with any sense here didn’t read the giant piece of tripe that was the NOTW, it wasn’t worth the stain on the newsprint and known in intelligent circles to be so. Sadly, that’s not their readership and there were still a lot of people misled by their wrongdoings. And as for claiming they had justification for hacking into Milly Dowler’s phone, jesus H…that’s the maddest thing of all. Very shameful stuff, and I think the tarnish it’s leaving on the rest of the newspaper industry is something that will come out in years to come. Who’s left to trust?

  • minxlj

    Oh, and if *anything* comes out that implicates Prime Minister Cameron in knowing any single thing about all of this, we’ll be calling for his resignation immediately. The media associated with government is bad enough, but any knowledge they had about hacking practices should discount them from any government involvement, full stop. Sad state of affairs :(