I am, as I may have mentioned, a junkie for news and politics. Not in the “my extreme views are more correct than your equally extreme views” kind of way. I believe that Fox News and MSNBC are equally full of shit. But I love the theater.
You can probably imaging how hooked I am on the phone hacking scandal. It’s got everything! Old, rich, white guys! Royalty! Cell phones! Death to a 168 year old newspaper! Special sessions of Parliament! High end executives being toppled left and right! What’s not to love? It’s like a Michael Mann film! (Sadly, Sean Hoare, one of the first to come forward, was found dead this week. That tempers the enthusiasms, while being a reminder that powerful people very often play for keeps. And the police statement that his death was being treated as “unexplained, but not thought to be suspicious,” should give everyone a chill.)
But, as an HR practitioner, there are a couple of points in the larger story that make me scratch my head. Nick Davies, reporter for the Guardian UK, has done a nice job of chronicling the timeline, if you are interested.
Clive was the royal editor (whatever that means…sounds important, though) at News of the World. Clive was arrested with two others for hacking the phones of the royal family in 2005. Was convicted and spent four months in jail. Not surprisingly, he was let go.
Then he filed a wrongful dismissal charge against the paper, claiming the practice was widespread. The investigation and review of thousands of emails did not turn up any supportive evidence, but the paper settled with Goodman on the basis that they had violated contractual employment law procedures.
Good old J.R. is a private detective from Surrey. He was first arrested on suspicion of (but not charged with) murder in 1987. He was charged in 1988, but the case was dropped. He was investigated several times over the intervening years for things like robbery, corruption and drug trafficking. In the 1990’s, we find our friend pulling down £150,000 a year as an “investigator” for News of the World, including duties such as phone hacking. In December of 2000, he was convicted of conspiracy to plant cocaine on a woman to damage her standing in a child custody case and sentenced to seven years in jail. A stand up guy.
Skip ahead a bit, and we find Rees released from prison and re-employed by News of the World, doing the same type of work as before. Plus some work with corrupt police officers, said some.
You’ve got an employee dismissed for what amounts to gross misconduct, but is paid a handsome separation sum because they couldn’t properly execute a dismissal?
You’ve got a career criminal sent to jail for framing an innocent woman who finds a well paying gig waiting for him when he gets out?
I often believe that the two jobs of HR are really just to manage talent and keep your employer out of jail. Whoever runs the HR department at News of the World failed at both. Oddly enough, no one on LinkedIn claims that title.