It's no huge surprise that News Corp. is likely lining its emergency war chest with settlement funds to keep phone hacking victims quiet as the scandal prepares to enter yet another year of revelations. Martin Hickman and James Cusick published a scoop with the details in London's Independent on Thursday, with the salacious suggestion that "News International will use legal fund to prevent further revelations:"

Rupert Murdoch's News International is thought to have prepared a legal fund of £100m to settle civil litigation actions brought by victims of the News of the World phone-hacking scandal ahead of a High Court showdown in the new year. 

News International is understood to have earmarked the money to settle several high-profile cases, with some claimants likely to receive well above £1m, according to sources close to the situation. The litigation surrender fund is five times the £20m Wapping set aside in April when it ended five years of denial and admitted hacking had been rife at its best-selling paper. Since then the number of hacking cases has jumped from around 20 to about 55.

Of course, we always recommend our readers be wary of the elusive "sources close to the situation," especially given the number of people out there that would love to smear Rupert Murdoch and his minions. (Okay okay, mostly just Murdoch.) But £100 million -- that's nearly $154 million, based on Thursday's exchange rate -- sounds about right, given the massive list of potential victims who will probably want a settlement. We're sure Rupert can afford it.