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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

SHAME OF MEDIA: U.S. Could Prosecute Murdoch!

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Michael Tomasky / / Jul 19, 2011 4:59 PM EDT.

Britain Phone Hacking

With Rupert Murdoch in deep legal trouble in the U.K., Michael Tomasky looks at the American law that could be used to bring the mogul up on civil charges in the U.S.

We’ve seen many mentions these last few days of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, the U.S. law under which some suggest Rupert Murdoch could be prosecuted. But is it really plausible that Murdoch and/or his News Corp. could be prosecuted in the United States for alleged bribes paid to British police officers by British employees of its British sister company? Yes, it is. So says the act, and so say two legal experts I spoke with Tuesday who have extensive experience in working with the law.
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The FCPA became law in 1977 at a time, says New York attorney Roland Riopelle of Sercarz & Riopelle, of “rampant corporate corruption overseas.” It was designed to create a domestic remedy for misbehavior by U.S. corporations abroad. A typical FCPA prosecution might involve something like going after an official of a U.S.-based company for paying a bribe to an official in a foreign country to win a government contract. There are both civil and criminal jurisdictions to such prosecutions. The Securities & Exchange Commission often has jurisdiction over such prosecutions, in conjunction with the Department of Justice. Almost all such prosecutions are brought by the DOJ itself—and not, say, a local U.S. Attorney’s Office like the mighty Southern District of New York—because the cases “are felt to have international financial implications,” Riopelle says.
Riopelle, a former federal prosecutor in the Southern District, says there is no doubt that bribes allegedly paid to British police officers would expose News Corp. to prosecution in America under the FCPA. He does think, however, that it would be somewhat abnormal. “Paying a police officer to get information about a pending investigation isn’t the typical FCPA prosecution,” he says. More typically, the United States brings a prosecution—for example, against an employee bribing a developing-world contracting official—because the host country lacks the will or resources to punish the official or the company.

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