Apple Asks Judge Cote to Remove Court-Appointed Antitrust Monitor

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Michael BromwichMichael Bromwich
Reuters/Yuri Gripas

Following a U.S. antitrust case last year that found that Apple had conspired with book publishers to fix the price of eBooks, the company was assigned a court-appointed attorney to monitor compliance with the court’s ruling. In early December, Apple asked Federal Judge Denise Cote to rein in the compliance monitor, Michael Bromwich, due to excessive fees and an “overzealous” interference with the company’s executives. Mr. Bromwich responded to Apple’s complaints by issuing his own against the Cupertino company, accusing it of denying his requests for executive interviews and otherwise obstructing his efforts.

On Tuesday Apple raised the stakes, asking Judge Cote to remove Mr. Bromwich entirely, according to Reuters. Apple’s lawyers argue that Mr. Bromwich should be disqualified from serving as the external compliance monitor as he has reportedly demonstrated a personal bias against the company, an argument supported by statements Mr. Bromwich reportedly made to Apple CEO Tim Cook. Excerpts from Apple’s letter to Judge Cote:

[Mr. Bromwich’s] wholly inappropriate declaration in an adversarial proceeding is compounded by…his financial demands, and his adversarial, inquisitorial, and prosecutorial communications and activities toward Apple since his appointment…

Viewing himself as unconstrained by the federal rules governing discovery and other matters, and acting like an independent prosecutor not a judge, he has repeatedly demanded interviews with Apple’s senior executives and board members who have no role in the day-to-day operation of the business unit at issue…

Other than to emphasize his need to “generate profits,” [Mr. Bromwich] has refused to justify his fee structure as “reasonable” or “customary” by past billing practices in this area.

Apple, however, may not be characterizing the situation in a completely objective manner. Apple has never admitted guilt in the matter, and multiple reports and statements from the company show that executives feel insulted at the mere suggestion that the company’s aggressive eBook strategy may have crossed a legal line.

Now both sides are at odds, and Apple’s open request to remove Mr. Bromwich will likely only fuel the flames. Court-appointed monitors are nothing new, and are often used to ensure compliance with legal rulings of all types. But for a company built on secrecy and autonomy like Apple, it’s likely that any external interference will ruffle feathers in Cupertino, even if Mr. Bromwich is eventually replaced.

While the saga unfolds, Apple is appealing the court’s ruling, so expect to see this issue remain in the spotlight for at least the next few years.

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Comments

aardman

By asking to interview corporate officials who have nothing at all to do with Apple’s eBooks business, Mr. Bromwich is obviously using his privileges as court-appointed monitor to dig into the nooks and crannies of Apple so as to enhance the future profitability of his (existing) consulting business by touting his ‘deep knowledge and insight’ in the inner workings of one Apple, Inc.

ibuck

Sure seems as if Bromwich has an ulterior motive.

geoduck

Ibuck
I fear you are correct but he’s acting with the full support of the judge who from the start has had her own biases and prejudices. It will take a higher court to reign in this rogue element, but if that will happen is another question.

daemon

” Mr. Bromwich is obviously using his privileges as court-appointed monitor to dig into the nooks and crannies of Apple “

That’s his job as monitor. He’s supposed to dig into the nooks and crannies of Apple and make sure not one person on the staff, be it a janitor or Al Gore has anything to do with illegal activities.

You guys keep forgetting, Apple was found guilty.

iJack

“You guys keep forgetting, Apple was found guilty.”

Indeed, but of a very limited set of charges. Moreover, his job to only monitor Apple’s compliance with rectifying what they were found guilty of, not conduct a general investigation into the company.

aardman

My God, you’re right Daemon, the janitor could be secretly negotiating with the publishers to circumvent the restrictions decreed by the court.  Or Jony Ive could come up with a new iPhone design language that enables stealth collusion with the publishers.  And worst of all, you never know about Al Gore, he invented the internet you know.

RonMacGuy

Don’t feed the troll.

gnasher729

daemon saying “Apple was found guilty”: In a civil court. Where the judge decided it was more likely to be guilty than not guilty, which is the standard in a civil court. After making that decision before the trial even started. This is not the same thing as “guilty beyond reasonable doubt” which is the standard in a criminal trial. And even people found “guilty beyond reasonable doubt” are quite often innocent.

And while it is my personal opinion, based on available evidence, that the judge was biassed and determined to find Apple guilty no matter what, it is an absolute fact that this judgement strengthened Amazon’s monopoly in the eBook market and is fatal for competition.

daemon

Amazon does not have, nor has it ever had, a monopoly in the “eBook market.”

daemon

http://shop.oreilly.com/
http://www.haynes.com/mole
http://search.simonandschuster.com/books/Format-eBook/_/N-i8fZpgz/Ne-i7h
http://rpg.drivethrustuff.com/

All of these existed long before Amazon’s kindle store, and I’ve been using them for years.

RonMacGuy

Regardless of Apple’s innocence or guilt, the fact remains that there is obvious bias and at the very least questionable activity on the parts of Judge Cote and her ‘friend’ Bromwich (see WSJ critique).  With Apple’s power and financial backing, they are in a strong position to continue to raise these issues above their heads.  I truly hope Cote and Bromwich suffer a bit for such obvious indiscretions…

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