* Internal probe to cover all of Murdoch's London papers
* Lawyers also examining emails and financial records
* Cash payouts will be closely scrutinized
By Mark Hosenball and Georgina Prodhan
WASHINGTON, Aug 29 Lawyers for Rupert
Murdoch's News International are conducting a broad inquiry
into reporting practices at all of the company's U.K.
newspapers, according to sources who have been briefed on the
As part of the inquiry, attorneys for Linklaters, the large
London law firm leading the investigation, will be looking for
anything that U.S. government investigators might be able to
construe as evidence the company violated American law,
particularly the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which prohibits
corrupt payments to foreign officials, a source familiar with
the investigation told Reuters.
In addition to conducting personal interviews with selected
journalists, lawyers will also be looking at email and
financial records, said this source.
A second source close to the company stressed that just
because the internal inquiry is examining reporting standards
across Murdoch's U.K. papers, this does not mean there is
evidence inappropriate activity occurred at News
International's currently-operating British properties.
News Corp acknowledges an extensive review is under way,
although the details it released have been sparse.
"As is widely known, a review of journalistic standards is
underway at News International with Linklaters assisting in the
process," a company spokesperson told Reuters.
The spokesperson added the review was "part of a process
that started a number of weeks ago." That process is under the
"ultimate control" of Joel Klein, a Murdoch executive in New
York who formerly worked at the White House and U.S. Justice
Department; Viet Dinh, an outside News Corp director who also
worked at the Justice Department; and the Management and
Standards Committee. The latter is a unit Murdoch created to
handle corporate response and cleanup related to the uproar
over allegations of phone hacking and questionable payments to
police by News International journalists.
Journalists from the company's surviving British tabloid,
The Sun, have already been interviewed for the internal
investigation. Interviews with journalists from The Sunday
Times, one of Murdoch's two London "quality" papers, are
scheduled to begin in September.
The inquiry is also expected to review reporting practices
at Murdoch's other upscale British title, the Times of London,
although people familiar with the investigation say the scope
of the review at the daily paper is likely to be less extensive
than at its sister papers.
Two people briefed on Linklater's activities said
information about the extent of the inquiry had been widely
communicated throughout the company over the last month. One of
these sources said only a selection of journalists -- including
reporters involved in sensitive reporting projects -- were
expected to be interviewed about their reporting methods.
Lawyers are also examining emails and financial records
that might relate to matters under investigation by police,
including phone hacking and questionable payments to police
officers or other government officials. One of the sources
briefed on the inquiry said close scrutiny would be given to
records of cash payouts requested or authorized by journalists
at News International properties.
In early July, Murdoch unexpectedly announced he was
shutting down the 168-year-old, Sunday-only, News of the World,
Britain's biggest-selling newspaper. James Murdoch, Rupert's
son and News International chairman, said the paper had lost
the trust of readers due to allegations about controversial
reporting practices by its staff, some of which he
characterized as "inhuman."
Both Murdochs were summoned before a parliamentary
committee in late July to face questioning about the scandal.
London's police force, Scotland Yard, also established teams of
detectives to investigate allegedly abusive or illegal
journalistic activities, including phone and computer hacking
and questionable payments to police officers.
So far, most if not all of the News International
journalists known to have been arrested and questioned by
police in connection with alleged reporting irregularities were
associated with the News of the World. But one of the most
prominent figures to have faced arrest, Andy Coulson, who most
recently served as British Prime Minister David Cameron's chief
spokesman, edited a gossip column at The Sun before becoming
editor of the News of the World in 2003.
Former News International CEO Rebekah Brooks, who was also
arrested and questioned by police, edited both the Sun and the
News of the World. Brooks was in charge of the Sunday tabloid
at the time of the infamous incident in which the voice mail of
missing schoolgirl Milly Dowler allegedly was hacked. Brooks
was on vacation when the incident occurred.
Although more than a dozen individuals have been arrested
and questioned by Scotland Yard in recent months regarding
alleged reporting abuses, so far none have faced criminal
Most of the specific phone hacking and questionable payment
allegations that have become public relate to the News of the
World. However, actor Jude Law has sued both the News of the
World and The Sun for alleged phone hacking. The company
strongly denied his claim, saying it was a "deeply cynical"
ploy to implicate The Sun in the hacking controversy.
Some of the Sunday Times reporting practices have also
faced public criticism. Britain's former Labor prime minister,
Gordon Brown, accused the paper of using questionable tactics
to acquire some of his banking, tax and legal records. The
paper has defended its reporting.
(Reporting by Mark Hosenball in Washington and Georgina
Prodhan in London; editing by Peter Lauria and Andre Grenon)