In the wake of its widespread phone-hacking scandal and subsequent shareholder lawsuit, News Corp. has been included in a new study from GMI, a research firm that rates 4,200 of the world's most actively traded companies. GMI's "Risk List" is a report of 10 companies "whose weak governance, poor environmental or social records or misaligned compensation structures present hazards to investors that aren't adequately reflected in their current valuations." From GMI:
Many high-profile corporate disasters have been attributed, in large part, to poor corporate governance. A recent example is the scandal that has encompassed News Corporation, where allegations of phone hacking were presaged by failing governance ratings based on severe weaknesses in the quality of board oversight.
For years, Rupert Murdoch's News Corp has raised social concerns about the effects of concentrated media ownership on public discourse. The recent phone hacking scandal has brought additional scrutiny of the company's journalistic standards and ethics, as well as its relationships with various government agencies. The short-term investment impact of the hacking story has been less than clear: after an initial dip, the company's share price has rebounded to the level it enjoyed before the scandal broke. However, we believe that the company's poor governance contributed to its recent problems, and may continue to put investors' interests at risk.
The report also warned investors that despite recent changes, "there is little indication that the quality of the company's governance is improving":
Although there have been some high-profile management resignations and a few name changes at the board level since the recent scandal, there is little indication that the quality of the company's governance is improving -- particularly in the crucial area of the relationship between the board and Murdoch. As an example, the company's investigation into the phone-hacking scandal is being led by directors with strong ties to the company and the Murdoch family. Investors in the company -- who include a vast swath of the investing public, due to its inclusion in the S&P 500 index -- may be vulnerable to further fallout from weak board oversight in the future.