Law Firms

News Corp. Hires Williams & Connolly; Murdoch Says Prior Firm Made 'Major Mistakes'

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Updated: News Corp. is gearing up for legal battles both here and abroad over a phone hacking scandal at its News of the World tabloid.

The company has reportedly hired white-collar defense lawyer Brendan Sullivan of Williams & Connolly, according to the New York Times DealBook blog and Thomson Reuters News & Insight. Both publications cited an anonymous source. A spokesperson confirmed to the Times that the law firm had been hired.

Sullivan defended Oliver North in the Iran-Contra scandal and Broadcom co-founder Henry Nicholas on backdating charges that were later dismissed.

The hiring comes as the FBI opens a preliminary inquiry into allegations the tabloid may have sought access to the phone records of Sept. 11 victims. In the United Kingdom, a senior judge is leading a probe into the hacking allegations, the Wall Street Journal (sub. req.) reports.

About 30 suits have been filed by hacking victims, and two have settled, the Wall Street Journal says. Nine people, including former News of the World editor Andy Coulson, have been arrested in connection with the hacking scandal and possible payments to police for information.

Meanwhile, News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch told the Wall Street Journal in a separate story that the law firm hired to investigate hacking, Hartbottle & Lewis, made a “major mistake” in underestimating the scope of the problem. The firm’s managing partner declined to comment when contacted by the newspaper.

Prior coverage: “Probe of UK Tabloid’s Phone-Hacking Expands; FBI is Looking at Claims 9/11 Victims Were Targeted” “Hacking Scandal Leaves News Corp. Legal Department in Disarray”

Updated at 10:15 a.m. to include information from second Wall Street Journal article.

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