James Murdoch misled Parliament in Tuesday's hearing, saying the hush-money payout to one prominent phone-hacking victim was about $402,000, when in fact it was 70% more, a hefty $684,000, reports the Guardian. Despite protesting that phone-hacking settlements were not "astronomic sums," with legal costs and other fees, News of the World paid around $1.61 million just to keep that one case out of court. "It appears to show the News of the World was willing to pay almost any price to hush up the case," write David Leigh and Nick Davies.
Even the confidentiality clause in the deal was unusual, contrary to Murdoch's testimony—not only was the size of the settlement a secret, but the very fact that there was a secret settlement was to be kept secret, a proposition so unusual it required a special legal review. The Guardian also wonders why NotW was from the beginning so eager to keep the case out of court, offering settlements much higher than anything previously paid out ($23,500 to Catherine Zeta-Jones had been the previous high for a case like this) and as much or even higher than losing the case in court would have cost. (Read more News of the World stories.)