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Worries Over News Corp. Extend to Wall Street Investors

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Investors in News Corporation, including the New York City public employee pension funds, are voicing concern and frustration over the company's leadership in light of the phone hacking and bribery scandals that have embroiled the company's British media properties. 

The city's retirement funds hold roughly $92 million worth of News Corp shares. 

As of last March, the state pension fund held an even greater number of News Corp shares. A spokesman for state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli said his office is "actively monitoring" the situation.

News Corp. owns The Wall Street Journal, the New York Post and Fox News, as well as scores of other outlets around the world.

"The recent revelations and allegations exacerbate shareholder concerns with News Corp.'s governance, particularly the independence of its board," said Michael Garland, an adviser to the fund's trustees on corporate governance who was appointed by city Comptroller John Liu, in a statement. "We are considering our options as owners of 5.8 million shares valued at $92.5 million."

Garland cited the hundreds of millions of dollars News Corp. is believed to have paid out to settle accusations of phone hacking, corporate espionage and anti-competitive behavior.

He also noted the "F" grade recently given to News Corp. on board effectiveness by an independent adviser, Governance Metrics International.

Other large institutional investors are also concerned, including Calpers, the California public retirement fund.

Earlier this week, a Calpers official assailed News Corp.'s two-tiered governance structure, which gives voting rights to only certain classes of shareholders, as "a corruption of the governance system."

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