No, there is no major news about the three major investigations into multiple phone and computer hacking, bribing police officials, or perverting the course of justice by News International in the the UK. Nor is there any major development in the DOJ investigation into the parent company Newscorp, for violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, or other examples of systemic criminality (RICO violations) like the Floorgraphics case.
No, the simple stunning verdict on the Murdoch Dynasty has been delivered by Newscorps Shareholders
Shareholders Deliver a Damning Verdict on James and Lachlan Murdoch
As handsomely diaried by Ceebs, last Friday's Newscorp shareholders meeting, held in high security in LA rather than in New York, was still a tumultuous affair, with many of independent shareholders calling the management to task over issues of corporate governance, probity, possible further legal actions, and of course the underlying complaint that Rupert Murdoch treats the public corporation like a 'family candy store'.
Usually as Murdoch's biographer Michael Wolff explains in a tellingly titled piece: Rupert Murdoch: News Corp's great dictator on the brink
Under normal circumstances, Rupert Murdoch doesn't have much patience for the annual shareholders' meetings that are required by law of American public companies. He regards them as a farce, because they cannot change the outcome in a company where a voting majority is secure, and as an exercise in liberal corporate law designed to put him personally on the spot.
This time it was different. This time the voices couldn't be ignored, and they were joined by the stalwart British Parliamentarian, Tom Watson, initially a victim and now a persistent campaigner against both the industrial scale phone hacking in the UK (among other illegal practices) and the coverup. The vote was supposed to be delivered here last week. Now you can see the reason for the delay.
Pegasus Corporate Governance has just tweeted the independent votes:
2011 AGM James Murdoch: For 59,297,033 (19.23%), Against 232,013,203 (75.24%) Abstain 494,831 Non-Votes 16,564,060
2011 AGM Lachlan Murdoch: For 67,175,479 (21.78%), Against 224,151,616 (72.69%) Abstain 477,972 Non-Votes 16,564,060
It doesn't constitute a majority since, though only owning 10 percent of the shares, the Murdoch family have 40 percent of the voting rights. But this is like Thatcher winning the first round of the votes in 1990 - not by a big enough margin. She was holed in the water. The vote of non confidence is resounding.
As the Guardian puts it:
James Murdoch's future at News Corporation looks increasingly precarious as shareholders delivered a damning verdict on his tenure amid widespread criticism of his handling of the hacking scandal.
Following a contentious meeting in Los Angeles last week News Corporation shareholders lodged a massive protest vote against James and his brother Lachlan Murdoch.
A majority of independent shareholders voted against the re-election of chairman Rupert Murdoch's sons James and Lachlan Murdoch. James Murdoch received the largest vote against his re-election at 35%.
James, 38, faces a second grilling in the Parliament next month over phone-hacking at The News of The World, one of News Corp's UK newspapers. Some 34% of shareholders voted against Lachlan Murdoch 40.
After subtracting the shares controlled by Rupert Murdoch, 67% of the votes went against James Murdoch and 64% against Lachlan, said Julie Tanner, assistant director of News Corp investor Christian Brothers Investment Services (CBIS), who last week called for Rupert Murdoch to step down as chairman after the "extraordinary scandals" at the company. "Shareholders are saying loud and clear that this board has failed as a group," she said.
A Family at War: the Rift between Generations
So that's it. In case you missed it, last week there was a well substantiated New York Times story saying the father was blaming the son for the debacle of the phone hacking coverup:
It was the newspaper business that would ultimately prove the point of deepest fissure between father and son. After taking control of News International, the company’s British newspaper subsidiary that publishes The Times of London, The Sun and News of the World until it was shuttered this summer, James made some abrupt course corrections.
SNIP - fascinating aside about Murdoch and Gordon Brown
It was in his role as head of the newspaper division that James approved a 2008 settlement with Gordon Taylor, head of an organization representing Britain’s professional soccer players, over allegations of voice mail hacking. That settlement is now at the center of a significant public dispute between James and two former News Corporation executives in London, who offer a conflicting account of events leading to the payment. The executives claim that they had informed James that the voice mail hacking went beyond the work of a lone “rogue” reporter and a private investigator that the company had acknowledged at the time. If that was the case, then law enforcement could argue that the settlement was intended as an attempt to buy the silence of victims, which legal experts say could provide the basis for British prosecutors to pursue criminal charges.
James has forcefully denied their assertion, saying the men did not tell him about a broader pattern of phone hacking. Some who know him have suggested that the most he is guilty of is listening to advisers who told him the settlement would be less costly than a court fight.
With James Murdoch due to return to parliament in just over a week to answer more questions about how he could have possibly conceived it was a sole reporter involved in phone hacking, his days are clearly numbered. With both sons now discredited, and Elisabeth leaving the board, the dynastic control over Newscorp is over but in name.
Poetic justice really, since Rupert, who inherited millions and the newspaper business from his father, has always claimed to be a buccaneering self-made man, and an enemy of the Royal Family because of their inherited privilege.
But the story isn't over. Michael Wolff predicts last week was Rupert's shareholder's meeting. The police investigations are far from finished, and the evidence of corporate malfeasance and coverup is rife both sides of the Atlantic.
An Obloquy to End All Obloquies
But I'll leave the best recent tirade against Murdoch to one of his former colleagues: the Canadian born former newspaper proprietor, Conrad Black, who still languishes in jail because of his crimes and misdemeanours. It seems prison time has actually done wonders for his sense of probity. As he fulminates in the Huffington Post
For decades, Murdoch has smeared, lied, double-crossed his political benefactors, including Jimmy Carter, Margaret Thatcher, John Major, a long sequence of Australian leaders, and the democratic forces of Hong Kong.
When the extent of his skullduggery finally oozed out, sluggish and filthy, including the details of the British government's dotage on him, this summer, Murdoch's old possum routine didn't play as convincingly as it had in its many previous auditions, when he purported to be contrite over the shortcomings of errant employees. Bumbling into a parliamentary hearing in London, supported on each arm like a centenarian semi-cadaver, mumbling about humility, trying to represent News Corporation's board as independent when it is public corporate America's most docile board of directors and is composed entirely of hacks, retainers, and ex-employees; scrambling and whimpering and paying millions to victims of his outrages; putting his name on a Journal op-ed piece about education; it's all of a piece and none of it resonates anymore.
My admiration for his boldness and acumen and our previous 25 years of more than civil relations make it unpleasant, despite his unspeakable assault on me, to have to conclude that he is, in my personal belief, a psychopath. I think behind his nondescript personality lurks a repressed, destructive malice. His is, and has been proved to be, in some measure, a criminal organization. This, apart from weaknesses of leadership, was always the greatest vulnerability of post-Reagan America's conservatism: its reliance on a man who would put anyone over the side and hoist any colours when the wind changed.
In the extreme winter of his days, Rupert Murdoch's failing hands have dropped the mask; he is a malignant force and it would be a good thing for the world to be done with him.
Wow. So Rupe's off his Christmas Card list I bet.
2011 was a year when dictators fell. Let's ensure that Murdoch joins Ben Ali, Muburak and Gaddafi in the list of toppled tyrants.