Mark Mendelsohn, widely recognized as an expert on the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, is no longer advising Rupert Murdoch’s media empire on its FCPA issues and hasn’t been for months, a British newspaper reported on Monday.
Mendelsohn was taken on by Murdoch’s News Corp. last summer to advise it on possible FCPA liabilty in the United States in connection with the phone-hacking scandal that has embroiled Murdoch’s outfit in the United Kingdom. But Mendelsohn was let go “almost as soon as he was hired,” The Guardian reported.
“Mendelsohn has consistently been reported over the past eight months to be acting as a leading legal adviser to News Corp on FCPA,” The Guardian noted. “However, his formal relationship with the company ended last summer, shortly after he was taken on by the firm.”
Mendelsohn was Deputy Chief of the Department of Justice’s Fraud Section in the second half of the last decade before joining Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton and Garrison LLP and was credited with ramping up enforcement of the FCPA. Thus, it was seen as a bit of a coup for Murdoch when Mendelsohn was brought on board.
“It is not clear why such a serious player in this part of the law should have been retained and then released by News Corp. in such quick succession,” The Guardian said. “Mendelsohn himself did not respond to questions from the Guardian, and News Corp. declined comment.”
As Main Justice reported last summer, there have been rumblings that News Corp. could be prosecuted in the United States. Reuters recently reported that U.S. investigators were “stepping up” investigations into whether bribes paid by News Corp. employees to British police for news scoops violate the FCPA, which prohibits payments to foreign officials for business advantage.
News Corp. is based in New York City.
The Guardian cited speculation that Mendelsohn’s departure may have come about because of disagreements with Joel I. Klein, former head of the DOJ’s Antitrust Division who went on to head New York City’s public schools and has been the News Corp.’s Manhattan-based legal fireman.
Mike Koehler, who writes regularly on FCPA issues as the FCPA Professor, found it a bit odd that Mendelsohn had left so quickly and quietly. “The pace of the scandal was rapid-fire last July. But even so when you hire a person of the calibre of Mark Mendelsohn, who used to lead the justice department’s FCPA project, and then shortly thereafter say you don’t need his services – that’s unusual,” he commented to The Guardian.
Murdoch didn’t get where he is by having thin skin. So maybe it doesn’t bother him that Mendelsohn’s departure, undisclosed for months, and his refusal to comment on it, will not enhance his news organization’s reputation for candor — or lack thereof — in reporting about itself.
Mendelsohn did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday from Main Justice.