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Transcript: Tom Mockridge recorded at meeting with Sun staff

News International ‘would be bankrupt’ over phone hacking but for News Corporation

Exaro today publishes the full transcript of a staggering meeting between media mogul Rupert Murdoch’s UK chief and staff from The Sun.

Tom Mockridge, as chief executive of News International, said at the secretly recorded meeting that the company faces total costs from phone hacking of £1 billion.

Mockridge met journalists on The Sun, a mixture of executives and reporters who had been arrested under ‘Operation Elveden’ over allegations relating to payments to public officials for information for stories.

If NI wasn’t a subsidiary to News Corporation, this company would be bankrupt now

Tom Mockridge, speaking as chief executive, News International

The meeting lasted for more than an hour and 10 minutes. It was also attended by Dominic Mohan, then editor of The Sun, and Derrick Crowley, group director of human resources.

It was held in a meeting room on “level 13” at the headquarters of News International, the UK subsidiary of News Corporation that has been rebranded as News UK and publishes The Sun, The Times and The Sunday Times.

Mockridge, who was born in New Zealand, succeeded Rebekah Brooks as News International’s chief executive. He left the company last December.

Mockridge held the meeting on November 22, on the day that The Sun suspended one of its journalists who had earlier that week become the first to be charged under ‘Operation Elveden’. The meeting was in Thomas More Square in east London, just a week before Lord Justice Leveson published his inquiry report on newspaper practices.

Mockridge was recorded as saying: “If NI wasn’t a subsidiary to News Corporation, this company would be bankrupt now. There wouldn’t be a Sun, a Times, a Sunday Times. There’s no way this company, as a stand-alone operation, could afford to financially sustain the exposure it’s taken.”

“The hacking probably, by the time it’s all over, is going to cost News Corp minimum of £500 million, if not a billion.”

His private suggestion of a total bill of £1 billion is far higher than the $448 million publicly declared by Murdoch’s group so far for costs and potential exposure from both phone hacking at the defunct News of the World and the paying of public officials for information by journalists on The Sun.

In June, 21st Century Fox was created to hold News Corporation’s film and television assets. A new News Corporation was formed to retain the UK newspapers and other publishing interests across the world.

News Corporation’s accounts published last month for the financial year to June record: “UK and US regulators and governmental authorities are conducting investigations relating to voicemail interception, illegal data access, inappropriate payments to public officials and obstruction of justice at its former publication, the News of the World, and at The Sun, and related matters, which are referred to as the UK newspaper matters.”

They continue: “The company is not able to predict the ultimate outcome or cost of the civil claims or criminal matters. The company incurred legal and professional fees related to the UK newspaper matters and costs for civil settlements totalling approximately $183 million and $199 million during the years ended June 30, 2013 and 2012, respectively.

“As of June 30, 2013, the company has provided for its best estimate of the liability for the claims that have been filed and costs incurred, and has accrued approximately $66 million.” That makes News Corporation’s declared costs and exposure $448 million.

The accounts also show that 21st Century Fox will indemnify News Corporation against costs from civil claims that result from phone hacking and bribery, legal fees from criminal consequences – but not any corporate fines.

The old News Corporation established the management and standards committee (MSC) – assisted by Linklaters, the law firm – to collate material to hand over to the police following the phone-hacking affair that closed the News of the World in 2011.

The Metropolitan Police Service is investigating phone hacking under ‘Operation Weeting’, and computer hacking under ‘Operation Tuleta’. The two operations, along with Elveden, were led by Sue Akers, the Met’s deputy assistant commissioner, until her retirement from Scotland Yard last year.

Exaro has compiled a full transcript of the Mockridge meeting, totalling more than 10,000 words, redacting a few details for legal reasons where marked. It can be downloaded by clicking on the link below.

If you have information – including any recordings – that might help our investigation, please contact us.

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