COULSON’S LEGAL FEES – I TOLD YOU SO
Back in August, Zelo Street covered the legal action begun by Andy Coulson, former Murdoch editor and chief spinmeister to Young Dave, following the decision by News International (NI) to stop paying his legal fees in respect of actions that he had taken while occupying the editor’s chair at the Screws. This effectively left Coulson with a six-figure bill which he would be most unlikely to be able to pay.
Moreover, all those actions had been taken in the service of NI, and were ultimately to their benefit: the Murdoch empire got the stories, the kudos, the sales, and the continuing profits. Their duty to Coulson was clear. And it wasn’t just a matter of duty or logic: a “termination agreement” had been drawn up and signed by all parties when Coulson left his post following the Royal hacking affair.
That agreement not only gave Coulson his company car, share options and reimbursement of expenses incurred during his time at NI, but also contained a Clause numbered 4.6, which as I pointed out at the time gave every appearance of meaning NI could not get out of paying his legal bills.
This is the wording of 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].
Today’s ruling by Lord Justice Laws, Lord Justice Sullivan and Lord Justice McCombe was to agree that “I am satisfied that clause 4.6 does cover Mr Coulson's costs and expenses of defending the criminal allegations”. Laws made another point.
“I cannot accept the judge's view that because Mr Coulson's duties as editor comprised only lawful duties, it cannot have been identified that activities outside his lawful responsibilities would be covered by the indemnity ... That would surely deprive the indemnity of all practical use. It would not even cover the editor for the costs of defending proceedings arising out of the publications of alleged libels or publications said to constitute contempt of court, the very occupational hazards of editorship”. So Andy Coulson gets to retain the shirt on his back, then.
This should be the case whether or not Coulson or any other current or former NI employee is liked, loathed or merely generates disinterest. It’s not about whether he gets guilty or not. It’s that he did what he did for the benefit of the Murdochs and they therefore owe him. Moreover, it just happens to be covered by an agreement signed by Rupe’s old mucker Les Hinton. End of story.