LONDON — A British lawyer acting for phone-hacking victims said Friday he is planning to launch legal action in the United States against directors of the News of the World newspaper's parent company News Corp.
Mark Lewis, who represents the family in the high-profile case of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler, said he had held talks with lawyers in New York about seeking depositions potentially against all the company's directors, which he thought would include Rupert Murdoch and his son James.
He will claim that some of what is alleged to have gone on at News Corp's now-defunct newspaper broke not only British law but potentially American law too, even if it was not carried out in that country.
"We are taking legal action against News Corporation in order to seek depositions from individual directors as to the whole issue of control," he told Reuters.
A successful U.S. lawsuit is the biggest fear of Murdoch and his team at company headquarters in New York, legal sources said. Civil claims damages in the U.S., where News Corp is based, also tend to be much higher than in Britain.
The company retained Foreign Corrupt Practices Act expert lawyer Mark Mendelsohn in July to deal with suits that might arise from its activities abroad.
A spokeswoman for News Corp in London declined to comment.
The News of the World is at the center of a scandal in which the tabloid has been accused of hacking individuals' phones, including that of Dowler.
Suggestions in July that a News of the World investigator listened in to, and deleted, messages left for the 13-year-old's cellphone after she went missing, misleading police and giving false hope to her family, caused uproar in parliament and outrage among the public.
It was the tipping point in the hacking scandal, which until then had focused mainly on the claims of politicians and celebrities.
John Rockefeller, chairman of the U.S. Senate commerce committee, has called for an investigation to determine if News Corp has broken any U.S. laws and the FBI is investigating allegations News Corp might have hacked the phones of victims of the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States.
News Corp No.2 Chase Carey have been quick to point out there has been no evidence of the newspaper carrying out similar hacking practices with 9/11 victims.
Lewis said he hoped legal papers would be sent off within the next week or so, with hearings possibly early next year.
"If there were any 9/11 victims then obviously it is an additional significance," he said.
On Monday, it emerged that News International, the British newspaper arm of News Corp, was near to agreeing a 3 million-pound settlement ($5 million) with the Dowlers.
The News of the World scandal has led to Murdoch closing the 168-year-old paper and dropping a $12 billion plan to buy full control of highly profitable pay-TV operator BSkyB.
It shook the political establishment and also resulted in the resignations of Britain's most senior policeman and counter-terrorism officer over the force's handling of the scandal.
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