As ‘Murdoch’s Scandal’ Unravels, Many Implicated : NPR
He’s an attorney in Manchester, he’s not in London. He’s in a firm that represents, happens to represent some of the soccer clubs locally. And he’s handed a brief that says that one of their clients believes that his phones were hacked by News of the World because he’d been informed of that by the police, although no story had ever appeared.
And Mark Lewis does something that apparently no one else had done at that point. He, under British law, files a suit against the police department because they had mentioned this to the client, that’s what initiated this, to see what else do they know.
And he discovers by doing that – and this is kind of another seminal moment of by chance – the police officer he meets shows him, apparently, more than he was supposed to show him. And it shows him that many people were hacked, that this wasn’t just his client, and it wasn’t just the royal family. And that this was an ongoing practice of the tabloids, in particular News of the World.
Armed with that information, he decides to write a letter to the News of the World and its prominent general counsel, Mr. Crone, well-known in England and in media circles, and figures that he is going to – and writes a letter asking for damages, somewhere in like the low five figures. I believe it was about 10,000 pounds.
Now, he thought that was a lot of money at the time because for non-published stories involving invasion of privacy, the average payment was somewhere around 3,000 pounds, $4,000, let’s say, $4,500. And he thought he was asking for quite a bit. The next thing he knows, he gets a phone call from Mr. Crone’s secretary asking him, when would he be available for a meeting with Mr. Crone, who is on the train to Manchester. He knew something is up.
GROSS: And the person he’s representing in this particular case was Gordon Taylor, the head of the Professional Footballers Association, whose phone was hacked. So how was this resolved?
BERGMAN: Well, Lewis, hearing the attorney out, decides to continually raise the fee. Initially he tells him, after the initial thing, well, I think we want 25,000, and he goes away, Mr. Crone goes away, and he doesn’t get back to him for a number of days. When they call back, apparently ready to agree, he raises it again.
He finally gets to 250,000 pounds, and then the negotiations really get serious. Eventually, they settle for over 700,000 pounds, including legal fees. And for that, the News International, the subsidiary of News Corporation, of Murdoch’s company in England, gets a zipper, that is gets Mr. Taylor’s lips sealed, Mr. Lewis’ lips sealed so that they will never reveal what happened.
GROSS: Lowell Bergman will be back in the second half of the show. His “Frontline” documentary “Murdoch’s Scandal” premieres, Tuesday on public TV stations. I’m Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.