When the phone hacking scandal first reached crisis proportions in the summer of 2011, there was speculation that James Murdoch could be charged with violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, a law which, in the words of the Justice Department, was designed to make it illegal for "certain classes of persons and entities to make payments to foreign government officials to assist in obtaining or retaining business." Now, the investigation is apparently under way. As News Corp. is headquartered in the United States, it is liable under the act. At the core of the investigation is whether or not News Corp. employees made illegal payments to police and other officials.
Some News Corp. executives, such as former News International CEO Rebekah Brooks, have said that the company has paid police for information. (Brooks later said that her words had been misconstrued.) British police have also been conducting an ongoing probe, called Operation Elveden, into whether there have been any illegal payments by News Corp. journalists to police officers. There have been multiple arrests in the probe.
The penalties for violating the FCPA are stiff; Reuters reports that, if convicted, News. Corp could be hit with a $2 million fine and banned from government contracts. Any individuals who are found guilty could face a $100,000 fine and a five-year prison sentence.
The FBI has not reportedly found any evidence thus far of earlier reports that News Corp. journalists hacked the phones of 9/11 victims.