By Jasmin Melvin
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Three U.S. senators called for the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission to investigate whether News Corp broke a U.S. law banning bribes to foreign officials.
Senators Barbara Boxer, John Rockefeller and Frank Lautenberg on Wednesday asked Attorney General Eric Holder and SEC Chairman Mary Schapiro to look into a potential violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act after the telephone hacking scandal at one of News Corp's British newspapers.
"The reported allegations against News Corporation are very serious and indicate potentially thousands of victims and a pattern of illegal activity. It is important to ensure that no United States laws were broken and no United States citizens were victimized," Rockefeller and Boxer wrote in a letter to Holder and Schapiro.
The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act prohibits payments intended to influence any act or decision of a foreign official.
The senators also called on authorities to investigate reports News Corp also illegally accessed telephone records of victims of the September 11, 2001, attacks.
"The limited information already reported in this case raises serious questions about the legality of the conduct of News Corporation and its subsidiaries under the FCPA," Lautenberg said in a separate letter sent to DOJ and SEC. "Further investigation may reveal that current reports only scratch the surface of the problem at News Corporation."
A Justice Department spokeswoman said they would review the letters as part of standard practice, but that did not mean an investigation would be initiated.
News Corp did not immediately comment.
News Corp, in addition to its newspapers in Britain, owns the Wall Street Journal, Fox Broadcasting, the New York Post and other media properties in the United States.
So far, the scandal has largely been contained to News Corp's UK newspaper arm following allegations journalists at News of the World hacked into the phones of a murdered school girl, dead soldiers and others to generate stories.
But with calls for investigations from members of Congress, the crisis could spread to the United States.
News Corp shares rose after the company said it was withdrawing its $12 billion bid to buy out the 61 percent of broadcaster BSkyB it does not already own [ID:nL6E7ID1W9]. The shares jumped 3.8 percent to close at $15.93 on Wednesday after a week of steady declines.
(Reporting by Jasmin Melvin; Editing by Andre Grenon, Phil Berlowitz)