News Corp. Pushes Hacking Settlements as Trial Nears
News Corp.’s British newspaper unit is close to settling at least 10 lawsuits by politicians, athletes and other prominent victims of phone hacking before the first civil trial over the scandal starts next month.
Labour Party lawmaker Chris Bryant and celebrity lawyer Graham Shear, whose voicemails were hacked to get stories for News Corp.’s News of the World tabloid, are among those near settlements, according to a document obtained by Bloomberg News. Their lawsuits were joined with four other “test cases” for a three-week trial scheduled to begin Feb. 13 in London.
“Some of the criticism of News Corp.’s conduct to date has been about their use of confidential settlements in the past to prevent facts coming into the public domain, so when it comes to settling any of these test cases, they should tread carefully,” said Mark Watts, a data-privacy lawyer at Bristows in London.
If settlements are reached, about two dozen backup cases are available, though several of those are also close to settling, including suits filed by ex-lawmaker George Galloway and former U.K. Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, according to the document.
The trial is intended to give guidance on damages for 70 current cases, as well as future lawsuits and out-of-court settlements. The Metropolitan Police Service has said about 800 people may have been targeted by the News of the World.