By ANDREW SELSKY
SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Oregon’s attorney general announced Monday she has begun investigating the board of directors of Fox Corp. for breaching its fiduciary duties by allowing Fox News to broadcast false claims about the 2020 presidential election — claims that cost the broadcaster almost $800 million in a lawsuit.
Also joining the investigation is Oregon State Treasurer Tobias Read, who oversees the Oregon Public Employees Retirement Fund, which owns more than 250,000 shares of Fox stock. Both Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum and Read are Democrats.
“Treasurer Read and I believe that Fox’s board of directors breached its fiduciary duties by allowing Fox News to broadcast false claims that Dominion and Smartmatic rigged the 2020 presidential election,” Rosenblum said. “We hope to hold the board accountable and protect the long-term value of Oregon’s investment in Fox Corp.”
Brian Nick, chief communications officer and executive vice president of Fox Corp., declined to comment on Rosenblum’s announcement.
In April, Fox News agreed to pay Dominion Voting Systems $787.5 million to avert a trial in the voting machine company’s lawsuit that would have exposed how the network promoted lies about the 2020 presidential election.
Dominion had argued that the news outlet owned by Fox Corp. damaged Dominion’s reputation by peddling phony conspiracy theories that claimed its equipment switched votes from former President Donald Trump to Democrat Joe Biden.
Lachlan Murdoch, chair and CEO of Fox Corp., said when the settlement was announced that it avoids “the acrimony of a divisive trial and a multiyear appeal process, a decision clearly in the best interests of the company and its shareholders.”
The Oregon Department of Justice said the investigation will explore leading a lawsuit against Fox’s management on behalf of the company’s harmed investors, which include Oregon’s public employees.
“Fox directors and senior officers manage the company on behalf of its investors,” the department said in a statement. “They have a duty to manage the company competently, honestly, and in a manner that prevents foreseeable and catastrophic financial harm like that inflicted upon company’s shareholders by the Dominion and Smartmatic suits.”
“We invest for Oregon’s public servants and we aim to hold Fox’s board of directors, including Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch, accountable for their decisions,” said Read, who is a member of the Oregon Investment Council, which sets state investment policy. “Investigating Fox’s books and records is a necessary and significant step in fulfilling our obligation to our beneficiaries.”
As of May 26, the Oregon pension fund owned 168,075 Class A common stock shares and 92,850 Class B shares of Fox stock, said Roy Kaufmann, Rosenblum’s spokesperson.