The embattled media conglomerate News Corporation and its independent directors have not only hired top criminal defense lawyers, they’ve also hired former Justice Department prosecutors well-versed in U.S. bribery law.
The new hires are a sign that the company is taking the Justice Department’s preliminary investigation—and the potential that the inquiry may turn specifically to bribery—rather seriously. (Read our story on why News Corp. may have good reason to worry.)
The company has hired Mark Mendelsohn, who until last year was the Justice Department’s top enforcer of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act—and an aggressive one, at that. Here’s FCPA expert Richard Cassin, writing on the FCPA Blog about Mendelsohn’s enforcement record:
Mendelsohn's view of the FCPA and American anti-corruption policy wasn't complicated. He pushed enforcement against corporations of any size and from any country. … He also led the government's charge against individual FCPA defendants—among them KBR's Jack Stanley, entrepreneur Frederic Bourke, and the 22 shot-show defendants.
As the UK’s Guardian notes, a full investigation of possible FCPA violations would likely drag other News Corp. subsidiaries into the mess—a costly and time-consuming process, but one that Mendelsohn will be able to help the company navigate.
The company’s independent directors, meanwhile, have hired former federal prosecutor Mary Jo White, who in 2007 conducted a major internal investigation of Siemens when it faced bribery allegations. News Corp. has also hired former U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey, who in addition to having experience with internal investigations also has an unusual connection to the FCPA.
As we've noted, Mukasey was hired in March as a lobbyist for the Institute for Legal Reform, an affiliate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. His lobbying registration shows he’s working specifically to roll back aggressive enforcement of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
The inquiry into News Corp. is still very early. So far the Justice Department has said that the FBI, in response to media reports and a request from lawmakers, is investigating whether News Corp. tried to hack into the voicemails of 9/11 victims and whether its payments to U.K. law enforcement violated the FCPA.