The Department of Justice (DOJ) opened an investigation last year after allegations surfaced that Chinese officials were bribed by the Wall Street Journal’s China news bureau in order to gain information for specific news articles. However, an investigation by the WSJ’s parent firm found no evidence to support these claims.
In another case, the U.S. government is nearing an end to a broader investigation accusing News Corp (NASDAQ:NWSA), the parent firm of WSJ, of phone hacking and bribery at U.K. tabloids.
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During the probe, the DOJ received information from a whistle-blower that Journal employees gave gifts to Chinese officials for obtaining information. As per the company officials, News Corp (NASDAQ:NWSA) and the Journal are not aware of the identity of this whistle-blower.
Even the government officials themselves have not revealed these details. In addition, there is no information on whether the informant works inside the Journal, or whether he or she has named the bribers. The gifts to the Chinese officials included lavish entertainment and travel arrangements, as revealed by a person familiar with the matter.
After finding no clear evidence on the bribery, News Corp (NASDAQ:NWSA) officials told the Department of Justice that the informant might be a Chinese government agent with plans to disrupt and possibly retaliate against the Journals reporting against the Chinese leadership.
According to a person close to the company, U.S. investigators have not considered the Chinese allegations for some time now, and they are unclear on whether the DOJ considers the case still open or resolved.
Paula Keve, a spokeswoman for News Corp (NASDAQ:NWSA)’s Dow Jones unit, said in a written statement: “After a thorough review of our operations in China conducted by outside lawyers and auditors, we have not found any evidence of impropriety at Dow Jones.”
The bribery accusations by the Chinese officials against the Journal came roughly at the same time when U.S. and Dow Jones officials believed that Chinese hackers were hacking the Dow Jones’s computer systems, according to a person familiar with the matter.
The timing of the accusations is one of the reasons why the company officials suspect the informant to be a part of a broader attack on the paper. According to Federal investigators, the Dow Jones system was hacked by offenders linked to the Chinese government. Many western companies have been victims of Chinese hackings in recent years, including The New York Times Company (NYSE:NYT).