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Church of England Sells Shares of News Corp. Over Phone-Hacking Scandal

Church of England says it is concerned that News Corp. has not committed to reforms to prevent future hacking

The Church of England signaled Tuesday that it has lost faith in News Corp. after a phone hacking and bribery scandal at the media company's U.K. tabloids.

The church's pensions board said it had sold £1.9 million worth of shares in News Corp. on the advice of its Ethical Investment Advisory Group.

Getty ImagesThe church said it first raised concerns with News Corp.'s board after allegations surfaced in July 2011, but said that after a year of talking to the company it was not satisfied that it was serious about reforming the culture that led to the illegal newsgathering at the heart of the scandal.

 "Our decision to disinvest was not one taken lightly and follows a year of continuous dialogue with the company, during which the EIAG put forward a number of recommendations around how corporate governance structures at News Corporation could be improved," Andrew Brown, secretary of the Church Commissioners, said in a statement. "However, the EIAG does not feel that the company has brought about sufficient change, and we have accepted its advice to disinvest."

The News Corp. phone hacking scandal involved extensive phone tapping and bribery of officials. The targets for its questionable tactics ranged from the U.K.'s Royal Family to celebrities like Steve Coogan and Hugh Grant. Employees at News of the World, a News Corp. tabloid, were also accused of tapping into the voice mail of Milly Dowler, a 13-year-old English girl who was abducted and murdered in 2002.

Eight people have been charged in the investigation, including Rebekah Brooks, a former confidant of Rupert Murdoch and the paper's former editor.

News of the World was shuttered just over a year ago amid public outrage over evidence that hacking and bribery were widespread at the paper. Though the paper where most of the crimes took place has been closed, News Corp. has had difficulty moving on from the scandal and could face legal costs and settlements of up to $1 billion.

The church's decision puts News Corp. in a family of industries such as military products, pornography, alcohol, gambling and tobacco, that it says are off limits for investment.