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Is Fox News chief Roger Ailes headed for indictment?

In December 2006, HarperCollins fired editor/publisher Judith Regan. News Corporation, the parent company that owns HarperCollins, said at the time that the firing came as a result of anti-Semitic comments Regan had made. Regan said otherwise and sued News Corp., ultimately getting an official retraction and a reported $10.75 million settlement in Jaunary 2008. Three years on, newly-released details from Regan’s side of the story could spell trouble for at least one News Corp. executive. If a report, from an unnamed source, this weekend by financial blogger Barry Ritholtz is true, Fox News chief Roger Ailes may be indicted imminently on charges of withholding information from a federal investigation.

In her original lawsuit, Regan alleged that a News Corp. executive had pressured her to lie to federal officials investigating then-New York City police commissioner Bernard Kerik. Kerik was a favorite of then-Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and had been nominated to the post of secretary at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in 2004 at Giuliani’s recommendation. Kerik’s ascension to the position unraveled when it was revealed that he had hired an undocumented alien worker as a nanny; the federal probe News Corp. is alleged to have meddled in was (unrelated to the nanny) a tax fraud investigation that led to Kerik’s imprisonment (he’s now one year into a four-year sentence).

So how is Regan tied to this whole business? It gets even more sordid: the reason she knew Kerik well enough to be of interest in the federal investigation was because the two of them had an affair during the writing, publication and press tour of his 2001 memoir, Lost Son, which was published through an imprint of HarperCollins. Her suit claimed that close ties between higher-ups at News Corp. and then-presidential hopeful Giuliani were behind the push to have her lie to investigators. Because she reached a settlement with News Corp. and signed a non-disclosure agreement, Regan has never said who told her to lie, but the New York Times reports that a recent fee dispute filed by her former lawyers names Roger Ailes, chairman and CEO of Fox News.

It’s now up to the Department of Justice to decide whether to charge Ailes. This weekend, a post from financial writer Barry Ritholtz on his blog, The Big Picture, reported that the DOJ may do just that. Ritholtz said that he recently spoke with someone who was supposed to be hosting Ailes at a March event, but that the executive canceled, citing “legal reasons.” Ritholtz’s source told him that he believes Ailes will be indicted as early as today. Salon reports that Ritholtz’s insider is an “Upper East Side Democrat” whom Ritholtz met by chance at a Barbados airport. While the reliability of Ritholtz’s source cannot be independently verified, Ritholtz wasn’t quite as definitive in an interview with Salon’s Justin Elliott as he was when he put up the post with the title “Roger Ailes to be Indicted.” Ritholtz told Elliott, “If it’s true we’ll find out. If it’s not, no big deal.” Fox News, for one, isn’t speaking on the matter.

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