News Corp. (NWSA)’s News of the World tabloid, shut after reporters were caught hacking into voice mails, also regularly authorized reporters to pay public officials for stories, a former editor said in a court filing.
The Sunday newspaper would usually pay 750 pounds ($1,184) for a “page lead” scoop, and offered 1,000 pounds for particularly compelling tips, according to documents filed by Matt Nixson, a former features editor who is suing the defunct tabloid’s parent company for wrongful termination.
Nixson, who is accused of approving a payment to a prison official for information about a murderer, didn’t realize he was doing anything wrong because only payments to criminals or witnesses in criminal trials were prohibited by the company’s code of conduct, the filing said.
“The practice of paying persons for information that could form the basis of an article was well-established, widespread and openly sanctioned,” according to the filing. The News of the World “frequently sanctioned payments to civil servants, members of the armed forces and prison officers.”
Bribery accusations have spread to another of News Corp.’s U.K. tabloids, with 10 journalists at the Sun being arrested as part of a police investigation into improper payments to public officials. The bribery probe, Operation Elveden, is running in parallel with the Metropolitan Police’s phone and computer hacking investigations.
Daisy Dunlop, a spokeswoman for News Corp.’s News International unit, didn’t immediately respond to a message seeking comment.
Nixson “was guilty of gross misconduct, or at any rate, conduct justifying dismissal without notice or pay,” members of News Corp.’s Management and Standards Committee, which is running the company’s internal investigation into hacking and bribery, said in a previous filing justifying Nixson’s termination. The New York-based company has announced it will publish a Sunday version of the Sun to replace the News of the World this weekend.
Nixson sued the committee for recommending in July that the company fire him from the Sun, where he’d worked since 2010. He is seeking his 105,000-pound annual salary plus damages, claiming he will have difficulty finding work after being tainted by the News of the World’s phone-hacking scandal.
Nixson, who was a features editor at the News of the World for five years, was dismissed from his most recent position at the Sun after paying for information on convicted child murderer Ian Huntley and the treatment he was getting in prison. The tabloid’s managing editor or the deputy would have signed off on payments made by members of Nixson’s team, Nixson said in his court filing.
The News of the World was shut in July after its reporters were found to have accessed murdered school girl Milly Dowler’s phone and News Corp. has settled dozens of lawsuits over its reporters illegally accessing voice mails.
Charges that reporters had hacked phones of their subjects had been made since at least 2006. That was the year that Glenn Mulcaire, the private investigator who worked for the paper, admitted five counts of phone hacking relating to soccer executive Gordon Taylor, soccer agent Sky Andrew, publicist Max Clifford, model Elle Macpherson, soccer player Sol Campbell and lawmaker Simon Hughes.
Separately, the Independent Police Complaints Commission is investigating an allegation that a police officer leaked information during the original investigation into phone hacking in 2006.
While the referral was made as part of the Elveden bribery probe, there is no evidence the officer was paid for information, London’s Metropolitan Police Service said in a statement today. The officer won’t be suspended and the investigation is ongoing.
Beginning in 2009, News of the World put a policy in place to delete e-mails that could be damaging in court cases, erasing hundreds of thousands on nine separate occasions, according to court documents released to the Telegraph newspaper.
The process may have been contrary to the paper’s legal obligation to preserve relevant evidence of phone hacking, which was in force from 2008, the newspaper said today.
Bloomberg LP, the parent of Bloomberg News, competes with News Corp. units in providing financial news and information.
The improper termination case is: Nixson v. News Group Newspapers, High Court of Justice Queen’s Bench Division, Case No. HQ11X03843
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