Church of England dumps News Corp shares over phone hacking

Aug 7, 2012

Church says it does not believe Murdoch's media company will make the necessary changes to its corporate governance

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THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND has made good on a threat to divest itself of News Corp shares. The Church said News Corp had failed to show "a commitment to implement necessary corporate governance reform".

The CofE first threatened to ditch its holdings in News Corp last year, after it emerged that journalists at the News of the World, the Sunday tabloid it owned, had hacked into the voicemail messages of the murdered schoolgirl Millie Dowler.

Back then, the CofE wrote to News Corp boss Rupert Murdoch, welcoming the company's decision to close the News of the World and urging the media mogul take measures to improve ethical standards.

However, in a statement today, the CofE's Ethical Investment Advisory Group (EIAG) said: "After a year of dialogue between the company and the EIAG, the Church of England was not satisfied that News Corporation had shown, or is likely in the immediate future to show, a commitment to implement necessary corporate governance reform."

Andrew Brown, Secretary of the Church Commissioners, said: "Last year's phone hacking allegations raised some serious concerns amongst the Church's investing bodies about our holding in News Corporation.

"Our decision to disinvest was not one taken lightly and follows a year of continuous dialogue with the company, during which the EIAG put forward a number of recommendations around how corporate governance structures at News Corporation could be improved."

The Church's Ethical Investment Advisory Group (EIAG) has now sold its total shareholding of £1.9 million.

It is very rare for the CofE to ditch shares over a company's ethics; it normally prefers constructive engagement. But it has happened before. The Guardian notes that in February 2010, the Church dumped £3.6m in shares in Vedanta Resources because of concerns the company was ignoring the human rights of locals living near a proposed bauxite mine in India.

The Church of England already excludes investment in companies involved in military products and services, pornography, alcoholic drinks, gambling, tobacco, human embryonic cloning and high interest rate lending.

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