U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder confirmed Friday that the Justice Department had opened an investigation into scandal-ridden News Corp. after receiving letters from U.S. lawmakers calling for a probe.
“There have been serious allegations raised in that regard in Great Britain, there is an ongoing investigation,” Holder told reporters in Sydney, Australia, according to CNN.
“There have been members of Congress in the United States who have asked us to investigate those same allegations. And we are progressing in the regard using the appropriate federal agencies in the United States.”
Three Democratic Senators, Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), and Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), have sent letters to Holder and Securities and Exchange Commission Chairwoman Mary Schapiro calling for an investigation into whether Rupert Murdoch’s media conglomerate violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
Meanwhile, House Homeland Security Chairman Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) and others sent a letter to Holder asking for an investigation into into whether News Corp. employees hacked or attempted to hack into the calls and phone records of Sept. 11 victims and their families.
Holder did not make it clear whether the department was investigating the phone hacking or potential violations of the FCPA, which prohibits bribes to foreign officials, or both. It was widely reported Thursday that the FBI has opened an investigation into the phone hacking.
While Murdoch and his brew could face liability under the FCPA, any prosecution on that front seems unlikely. The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that the Justice Department is not interested in bringing a case at this point, preferring to defer to their U.K. counterparts.
DOJ spokeswoman Laura Sweeney previously confirmed to Main Justice that the department was reviewing the letters it had received.
“The department does not comment specifically on investigations, though anytime we see evidence of wrongdoing, we take appropriate action,” Sweeney said. “The department has received letters from several Members of Congress regarding allegations related to News Corp. and we’re reviewing those.”
Rep. Bruce Braley (D-Iowa) has also asked Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) to have the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which Issa chairs, open an FCPA probe into News Corp.