NEW YORK, July 19 (Reuters) - The independent directors on News Corp's board have hired top white-collar defense attorney Mary Jo White and former U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey amid the phone hacking scandal that continues to dog the media giant.
The company's independent directors have brought White and Mukasey aboard to advise News Corp independent director Viet Dinh, according to a statement released by Debevoise & Plimpton, the New York law firm where both attorneys practice. Dinh, also an attorney, is supervising--on behalf the independent directors--News Corp's management and standards committee, which is cooperating with authorities investigating the scandal.
The appointment of White and Mukasey is an indication that the independent directors want to ensure that any course of action for the company is designed to preserve shareholder value and the corporation's overall well-being apart from any interests of company executives, said a partner at a large law firm in New York whose practice focuses on corporate and securities litigation. He requested anonymity to speak candidly about the situation.
With the arrest of Rebekah Brooks, former chief executive of News Corp subsidiary News International, and the possibility of further charges or allegations against other executives, independent directors want to make sure that the company's interests are protected. "When a company is under fire and where senior management may be implicated, independent directors want to remove even the suggestion of a conflict of interest," he said.
News Corp announced Monday that it was bolstering its management and standards committee and appointing Lord Anthony Grabiner, U.K. barrister, to serve as chairman of the committee.
White is one of the most prominent internal investigation attorneys in the country and is a former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, where she served for nine years ending in 2002. She is chairman of Debevoise's 225-attorney litigation department. Her practice also focuses on white-collar defense and securities and corporate governance.
Mukasey was the U.S. Attorney General from November 2007 to January 2009. He succeeded Alberto Gonzales, who resigned in the face of accusations by Congress that he had politicized the Attorney General's office. Mukasey previously served as a judge in the Southern District of New York. His practice focuses on internal investigations, independent board reviews and corporate governance. He joined Debevoise in 2009.
White conducted an internal investigation of engineering giant Siemens in 2007 in one of the biggest corporate bribery scandals in history. In addition, UBS hired White amid securities fraud allegations. As U.S. Attorney, she brought racketeering charges against mobster John Gotti and prosecuted terrorists in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. She is head of the firm's 225-lawyer litigation department.
"Mary Jo is the gold standard," said Jonathan Polkes, a securities litigation partner at Weil, Gotshal & Manges. White served as the acting U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District of New York while Polkes worked in the office in the 1990s. "She will issue a report with unquestionable integrity."
(Reporting by Leigh Jones, Noeleen Walder and Erin Geiger Smith)