ANDY COULSON AND PARAGRAPH 4.6
There was a general outcry when it was revealed that News International (NI) was paying the legal fees of those who had departed its employ some years ago. But no thought seems to have been given to their having done what they did in the service of the Murdoch empire. So it should also have come as no surprise when Andy Coulson commenced proceedings after NI stopped paying his legal bills.
Now, thanks to the Leveson Inquiry, it is possible to get a handle on the grounds that the former editor of the Screws might have for taking his action, and one look at the Severance Agreement signed by Coulson and Rupe’s faithful retainer Les Hinton, following the former’s departure in the wake of the first phone hacking case, does not bode well for the Murdochs.
Remember at the outset that, had Coulson been dismissed from the editor’s chair, as happened to his contemporary Piers “Morgan” Moron at the Mirror, that would have been that, and he would have had no comeback. But Coulson was not dismissed – he resigned, and the Severance Agreement actually formalises, in some areas, the potential continuation of his relationship with NI.
NI agreed to keep on paying for his medical cover. Coulson got to keep his company car, and held on to his share options. There would be “termination payments”, which are apparently separate from three payments in lieu of notice. The agreeable mood also extended to allowing Coulson to claim expense payments after he left, provided those expenses were incurred while he was working for NI.
But the killer for Rupe and his troops is in Paragraph 4.6: “To the extent that it is lawfully able to do so, the Employer will pay any reasonable professional (including, without limitation, legal and accounting) costs and expenses properly incurred by the Employee after the Termination Date which arise from his having to defend, or appear in, any administrative, regulatory, judicial or quasi-judicial proceedings as a result of his having been Editor of the News of the World” [my emphases].
That looks very much as if, when Coulson resigned, NI agreed to sign on for any future legal costs which he incurred as a result of editing the Screws. So when NI stopped the payments, it is no wonder that Coulson started proceedings. Unless NI finds some way of voiding their Severance Agreement with Coulson, he appears to be in the right this time.
There may well be a further outcry if it is found that NI have to continue paying Coulson’s legal bills. But all of Phonehackgate, and the Tommy Sheridan business, was known about when Les Hinton signed on the dotted line. Coulson did it all for the benefit of NI. The least they could do is own up – and pay up.