News Corp. Is Best Friends with the U.S. Attorney Investigating Them

More specifically, Viet Dinh is best friends with executive phone hacking investigator

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The only thing more intimidating than Viet Dinh's resume are his close ties to powerful members of the government. A former Assistant Attorney General during the Bush administration, he helped draft the Patriot Act. He now sits on the board of directors of News Corp., and as Massimo Calabresi at TIME's Swampland blog explains, he's leading the company's internal investigation of the phone hacking scandal:

The man tapped by Rupert Murdoch to oversee News Corp.’s internal probe of wrongdoing by the company has some elite qualifications. Viet Dinh went to Harvard and Harvard Law School, clerked for Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, served as assistant attorney general early in the Bush administration, co-authored the Patriot Act, and now teaches corporate law at Georgetown University Law Center.

He also is best friends with the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara, who is leading the U.S. investigation into the company.

Bharara is also currently investigating News Corp. on charges of corruption and anti-competitive behavior as well as allegations that a News Corp. tabloid hacked the phones of 9/11 victims. As a prosecutor, he's expected to be a little harder than News Corp.'s board of directors. But Dinh was the best man at Bharara's wedding as well as the godfather to Rupert Murdoch's son Lachlan. Calabresi adds that Bharara has announced an intention to recuse themselves from the investigations, and both men refused to be interviewed for Calabresi's report.

In addition to casting doubt on the integrity of the U.S. investigation, the connection between Dinh and Bharara amplifies claims of nepotism on News Corp.'s board. Though Murdoch continues to insist that his independent directors are indeed independent and in compliance with corporate governance standards, a New York Times report published Tuesday details Murdoch's "familiar, friendly" ties with his board members and suggests otherwise. "News Corporation considers nine of its 16 directors independent, in keeping with Nasdaq rules requiring a majority of board members with limited company ties," explains Jeremy W. Peters. "Yet many of them owe their careers to Mr. Murdoch. Others made millions of dollars making him richer."

Nevertheless, Rupert Murdoch greeted shareholders on Wednesday afternoon's earnings call with an emphatic declaration about his company's moral standing in light of the phone hacking scandal. "We will continue to do whatever is necessary to prevent something like this from ever happening again," said Murdoch, announcing that he and the board had agreed that he would remain CEO. "There can be no doubt about our commitment to ethics and integrity."

When pressed by journalists about this commitment, however, Murdoch deflect the criticism. In closing the call, NPR's David Folkenflik asked Murdoch directly about the close ties of News Corp. board members both with each other and with investigators. Murdoch cut Folkenflik off before he'd even finished asking the question. "No, I won't acknowledge that," Murdoch declared. The call then ended abruptly.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.