The Daily Beast
In an exclusive interview, a London lawyer reveals his plans to take on Murdoch on behalf of clients who believe their phones were hacked in America.
Fleet Street lawyer Mark Lewis is coming to America this week—and he’s bringing the phone hacking scandal with him.
Lewis has been Rupert Murdoch’s prime antagonist in the crisis rocking the mogul’s media empire in Britain. His 2007 lawsuit on behalf of a hacked soccer official kicked the scandal into gear, and he broke it open this summer with his suit on behalf of the parents of Milly Dowler, the murdered schoolgirl whose phone was hacked by Murdoch journalists when she disappeared. The uproar surrounding the Dowler revelations caused Murdoch to shutter his legendaryNews of the World tabloid, and he agreed to a landmark, multimillion-dollar payout to settle the family’s legal claim.
When Lewis went toe-to-toe in those negotiations with Murdoch, there came a moment, he says, when Murdoch finally blinked—and it was when Lewis threatened that, in his words, “we would take it to America.”
Now Lewis says he is mounting a U.S. challenge to Murdoch all the same. In an exclusive interview with The Daily Beast, Lewis confirmed for the first time that he plans to file three separate lawsuits on behalf of clients who believe their phones were hacked while they were on U.S. soil. At least one of the cases, Lewis adds, involves allegations that the phone of a U.S. citizen was hacked. “This is getting wider,” Lewis says. A spokesperson for News Corporation declined to comment.
Lawyers and Murdoch opponents have been searching hard for U.S.-based cases since the scandal reached a head this summer. For one, they could bring the public-relations nightmare closer to home for News Corp., the parent company for Murdoch’s media conglomerate, which is headquartered in New York.
Analysts say the company has worked hard to limit the damage to its U.K. arm, News International, whose newspaper business accounts for just a fraction of the News Corp. bottom line. “News Corp. has so far tried to keep matters in the U.K. and has moved toward a policy of settling all cases as speedily as possible,” says Claire Enders, a London-based media analyst who follows News Corp. closely. “Mark Lewis launching these lawsuits in the U.S. brings the issue of phone hacking into News Corp.’s backyard, where they have the potential for significant embarrassment. And the people who are going to get the most embarrassed by this are the Murdochs in New York.”