Court Denies Apple's Request to Remove Compliance Monitor in E-Book Antitrust Case

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iBooksU.S. District Judge Denise Cote today denied Apple's attempts to thwart its antitrust monitorship, reports Reuters. Apple had asked the court for both a stay on the original order requiring an external compliance monitor (due to a pending appeal) and the removal of Michael Bromwich, the attorney appointed to serve as the company's monitor. Both requests were denied.

Apple Inc lost a bid on Monday to block an antitrust monitor appointed after a judge's finding that the company conspired to fix e-book prices. At a hearing, U.S. District Judge Denise Cote in Manhattan denied Apple's request to stay an order requiring an external compliance monitor pending the company's appeal.

Apple also sought to have the judge disqualify the lawyer chosen to serve as monitor, Michael Bromwich.

Apple and appointed antitrust compliance monitor Bromwich have ongoing disagreements since November, when Apple filed a formal complaint over Bromwich's fees in the case, which amounted to $138,432 over a two week period. The company also complained that Bromwich was overstepping his bounds by demanding lawyer-less meetings with key Apple executives and board members.

Bromwich, for his part, claimed that he experienced "a surprising and disappointing lack of cooperation from Apple and its executives", filing a complaint against the company in late December. Apple responded by requesting his removal last week, stating that Bromwich had a personal bias against the company.

Earlier today, the Department of Justice condemned Apple's actions, stating Apple had "chosen a campaign of character assassination over a culture of compliance" and suggested that Bromwich was open to negotiating with Apple on the original fee dispute.

Judge Cote plans to issue a decision explaining her reasoning on the denial in the near future, at which point Apple will have 48 hours to request an emergency stay from the federal appeals court in New York.

Apple was originally found guilty of conspiring with publishers to raise the retail price of e-books in July. As part of its punishment, the company was forced to hire an external compliance monitor to ensure that it complies with antitrust requirements in the future.

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86 months ago

Apple suggested that he speak with its employees who actually have something to do with antitrust, such as its general counsel or chief compliance officer, whereupon Mr. Bromwich had a tantrum. He made blanket requests for proprietary documents well beyond his mandate and bypassed Apple's in-house counsel by sending letters directly to board members and executives ordering them to meet with him without their lawyers present, accusing the company of "a surprising and disappointing lack of cooperation."

Then, shortly before Thanksgiving and out of the blue, Judge Cote proposed to amend her injunction to grant Mr. Bromwich even greater powers than he already claimed and also to make monthly briefings to her on what he finds—without Apple present. She denied any previous ex parte contact, but Apple's lawyers say Mr. Bromwich told them that he doesn't need to wait for the January deadline because Judge Cote privately instructed him during the interview process for the position to get off to a "fast start."

He worked for Iran-Contra independent counsel Lawrence Walsh in the Reagan era and as inspector general for the Justice Department in the Clinton years.

He was confirmed for the latter job despite conflicts of interest; his mentor Philip Heymann was Deputy Attorney General and inspectors general are supposed to be impartial watchdogs. In 1994, Judge Cote wrote Mr. Bromwich an effusive endorsement letter to help push him over the Senate hump.

While he has great political connections, Mr. Bromwich has no experience in antitrust law. The greenhorn is billing Apple at an $1,100 hourly rate and he was forced to hire the law firm Fried Frank to make up for his lack of expertise, at $1,025 a hour. He racked up $138,432.40 in charges for his first two weeks. A spokesman for Mr. Bromwich's firm, the Bromwich Group, declined to comment on matters currently before the court.

From the WSJ (http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304355104579236261045331876).

Must have been a different Judge Denise Cote :rolleyes:
Score: 15 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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86 months ago
The judge shouldn't be allowed to pick her friends. It should be a reputable party who has no relation to the judge at all.
Score: 15 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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86 months ago
I can understand denying the request to get rid of the monitor entirely, given that they were found guilty, but the simple fact that this monitor had to bring in an outside expert who gets paid as much as he does to do the job he was expressly hired to do should have disqualified him from being appointed in the first place, and I can't honestly see how it's anything but a favor by the judge.

I mean, really, if you were sent to a repair guy to get your car fixed, and the repair guy handed it off to an "expert in repairing cars" because he was actually an appliance repairman, then billed for both his and the expert's time, you'd say that the repair guy was incompetent and should never have been given the work in the first place.

How is this any different? Because lawyers are special flowers who get to take work they don't know how to do and bill fabulous amounts of money for hiring outside help to do the work?
Score: 13 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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86 months ago
The ridiculousness of this whole suit is that the Department of Justice is effectively helping Amazon to destroy competition through predatory pricing.

Last time I checked, the goal of antitrust regulations was to promote competition and support consumers' long term interests. I guess Amazon spends a whole lot more lobbying money in Washington.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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86 months ago
I laughed very hard at the whole line about "fostering a culture of compliance".

Let's face it, that's what this is all about. Apple has never played by the same 'rules' that other big business play by. Minimal lobbying, no massive corporate PAC money, not rolling over and playing dead about the whole tax scheme thing a few months back, etc.

This is about forcing Apple to conform and demonstrating the government's ability to force it's will on anyone--even the most successful company in the US.

If I were in Tim Cook's shoes, I would kick the guy out of the building and dare the court to take further action. They've done nothing wrong. Their actions were not criminal, and even if they were (by some imaginative stretch) the 'ebooks market' is not large or vital enough for antitrust law to really even be a consideration.

I'm proud of them for standing up to this and I hope they continue.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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86 months ago
I don't even begin to understand why the court would be unwilling to assign a new monitor. Why does it matter who the monitor is, if there isn't something shady going on.

It is very apparent that there most likely is a conflict of personality between the current monitor and Apple and that both parties feel like it is impeding their ability to get work accomplished. Seems simple, change out the monitor. If the monitor is doing what they are assigned to do why does it matter who the monitor is.

This seems to be a very odd response especially in light of the fact that the monitor (Bromwich) is an old friend of the judge on the case (Cote).
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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