Rebekah Brooks did not authorise payments to private detective Glenn Mulcaire while editing the News of the World, a court heard.
The suggestion came as documents shown at the Old Bailey also revealed that Mulcaire had a 12-month contract with the paper, signed in September 2001, in which it was agreed he would receive a total of £92,000 – in weekly payments of just over £1,700.
But it was claimed that Brooks – who edited the NoW from May 2000 to January 2003 – could not be shown to have signed payments to private investigator Mulcaire during her time as editor of the now-defunct tabloid.
Michael Gill, group financial controller of News UK, previously known as News International, told the Old Bailey that there were various levels of approval at the company so certain managers could only authorise payments up to a certain amount.
Brooks, Coulson and Kuttner were approved to authorise payments of up to £50,000, the court heard.
Jurors were shown lists of payments that went through the News of the World each month – drawn up by Mr Gill – including those made to Mulcaire.
In April 2002 – the month that stories were published that used material hacked from Milly Dowler's phone – the court saw there were hundreds of payments of varying amounts, including four of £1,769 each to Mulcaire's company Nine Consultancy Ltd.
Jonathan Laidlaw QC, representing Brooks, said the payments were just four of "many hundreds of payments for that month", to which Gill replied: "Correct".
Under questioning from Laidlaw he said that Brooks was not shown in the document as having authorised a payment to Mulcaire.
Laidlaw said: "She never authorised a payment to Mr Mulcaire, either by his name or by any of the companies by which he was paid.
"Not a single one was authorised by Mrs Brooks," to which Mr Gill told him that was correct.
When asked by prosecutor Andrew Edis QC about the £92,000 contract, which was set up with another of Mulcaire's companies Euro Research and Information Ltd in September 2001, Gill said it should have had both legal and editorial approval: "because you have always got to have the approval at the total value of the contract".
Brooks, 45, of Churchill, Oxfordshire; former NoW editor Andy Coulson, also 45, from Charing in Kent; former NoW head of news Ian Edmondson, 44, from Raynes Park, south west London; and the tabloid's ex-managing editor Stuart Kuttner, 73, from Woodford Green, Essex, are on trial for conspiring with others to hack phones between 3 October 2000 and 9 August 2006.
Earlier, Harry Scott, former night editor at the NoW, said it was important to make sure that material put in the paper was true.
He told the court: "I have to be sure in my own mind that a story was right or true in as much as I could.
"Obviously you're not going to go putting things into the paper willy-nilly because you get in all sorts of trouble."
All of the defendants deny all of the charges.
The case was adjourned to tomorrow at 10am.