News Corp appoints Grabiner QC to oversee phone-hacking investigation

Lord Grabiner QC is joining the lengthening list of legal advisers winning roles on the fallout from the phone-hacking allegations surrounding News International.

Lord Grabiner QC
Lord Grabiner QC

Grabiner has been named as chairman of the management and standards committee set up by the company’s parent News Corporation to investigate the scandal.

In a press statement, News Corporation said the committee would report directly to News Corporation’s executive vice-president Joel Klein. The committee is “authorised to co-operate fully with all relevant investigations and inquiries in the News of the World phone-hacking case, police payments and all other related issues across News International, as well as conducting its own enquiries where appropriate”, according to the statement.

The committee will also be responsible for proposing and overseeing the implementation of new compliance, ethics and governance procedures at News International.

Klein said it was “vitally important” that the committee was “independent and properly governed”.

He added: “We’re very pleased that such an eminent person as Lord Grabiner has agreed to be the independent chairman. He’ll bring his undoubted experience and intellect to this very important role. His appointment clearly demonstrates that we’re serious about putting things right that have gone wrong in the past.”

News Corporation also confirmed that Jeff Palker, general counsel for Europe and Asia – who also sits on the management and standards committee – will continue to be responsible for legal affairs throughout the region including direct oversight of the legal function at News International.

This confirmation follows last week’s resignation of News International’s general counsel Tom Crone (13 July 2011).

Meanwhile, Harbottle & Lewis, which was last week heavily criticised by News Corporation’s owner Rupert Murdoch (15 July 2011), defended itself today in a letter sent to the media. The firm said press reports on Harbottle’s past role as a News International adviser in a previous investigation over phone hacking had “not accurately described the extent of our retainer”.

However, Harbottles said it was unable to respond in detail to Murdoch’s comments as it was constrained by client confidentiality, legal professional privilege and the fact that the partner involved, Lawrence Abramson, left the firm “some time ago”.

The firm said it would comment further when it became “professionally possible” to do so.

A number of law firms and individuals on both sides of the Atlantic have picked up roles acting for various parties in the phone hacking affair, including Olswang, which is reviewing News International’s code of practice (7 July 2011).