Phone hacking: Britons consider US legal action

James and Rupert Murdoch
Image caption Having been quizzed by UK MPs, James and Rupert Murdoch could soon face questions in the US

UK victims of alleged phone hacking by the News of the World are considering legal action in the US against parent company News Corporation.

US lawyers have been asked to explore the possibility of legal action against Rupert Murdoch's media group.

Subsidiary News International has agreed some settlements in the UK.

It has also emerged that ex-NoW editor Andy Coulson is suing his former employer over its decision to stop paying his legal fees.

UK lawyer Mark Lewis told the BBC News channel: "Although events might have happened in territories abroad, the American organisation can be responsible".

"News Corporation - although it's an American organisation, although these claimants are to large extent British and the events that might have happened in Britain, although some happened while people were away - they are meant to have some control under American law, have a great deal of control over what happens in foreign subsidiaries."

He added: "We are looking at the practices of control effectively - of directors, and of knowledge of directors, and knowledge or what should have been knowledge of directors of a large corporation based in America."

Arrangement ended

US lawyer Norman Siegel told BBC News he was at an "exploratory phase" of examining evidence that had emerged in the UK to see if US federal laws or New York state laws may have been violated.

When contacted on Friday, News Corporation declined to comment.

Meanwhile, it has emerged that lawyers for Mr Coulson filed papers at the High Court on Thursday against News International subsidiary News Group Newspapers.

BBC political correspondent Robin Brant said: "Even though Andy Coulson hasn't worked for the publishers of the now-defunct News of the World for more than four years, the paper's owners were still paying his legal fees in relation to the hacking investigations.

"But following Rupert Murdoch's appearance at the home affairs select committee in July the arrangement ended."

Mr Coulson was arrested in July over claims of hacking by NoW staff during his time as editor. He had resigned as Prime Minister David Cameron's director of communications earlier in the year because of the phone-hacking scandal.

He has always said he knew nothing about phone hacking under his editorship.


The News of the World phone-hacking scandal led to the closure of the UK tabloid in July after 168 years in print.

A number of people have been arrested, including Mr Coulson, as part of Scotland Yard's investigation - Operation Weeting - into phone-hacking allegations.

Settlements already agreed by News International include: a reported £700,000 to Gordon Taylor of the Football Association; £100,000 in damages plus costs to actress Sienna Miller; £20,000 in damages to football pundit Andy Gray.

It is thought that a £2m settlement has been agreed with the family of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler, with Mr Murdoch also thought to be making a personal donation of £1m to charity as part of the deal.

The revelation that the voicemail of Milly's mobile phone had been hacked, when she was missing but before her body had been found, reignited the phone-hacking scandal in July.