Judge Denise Kote not only saddled Apple with a court-appointed outside attorney to monitor the company's antitrust compliance, she then picked the attorney she wanted—Michael Bromwich—without also establishing how much he would be paid. The result? After two weeks on the job, Mr. Bromwich is trying to charge Apple $1,100 per hour.
Adding insult to injury, Judge Cote has established rules that allow Mr. Bromwich to interview Apple employees without Apple's own attorneys present and then report to the judge without Apple's attorneys present.
Bloomberg reported that Apple is protesting Mr. Bromwich's epic rates, as well as the rules that Judge Cote set up. In court documents filed by Apple, the company characterized the US$138,432 bill Mr. Bromwich gave Apple for two weeks work as unprecedented.
"Of all known past Apple matters," the company wrote in its filing, there has never been a fee this high. This, coming from the company involved in dozens of lawsuits around the world—both as plaintiff and defendant—with many of those lawsuits involving top law firms.
"Mr. Bromwich appears to be simply taking advantage of the fact that there is no competition here or, in his view, any ability on the part of Apple, the subject of his authority, to push back on his demands," the company wrote.
Part of the fee Mr. Bromwich is trying to charge includes a 15 percent "administrative fee," suggesting the attorney has mistaken himself for an airline or phone company. His defense for this fee is that he is technically billing his services through his own consultancy, rather than than through his own law firm, the Bromwich group.
You know, because that would make it OK.
Apple pointed out that the distinction is meaningless considering this same Bromwich Group issued a press release trumpeting his selection as Apple watch dog, saying that the press release was, "clearly meant to drum up more business." The company also called the administrative free, "unprecedented in Apple’s experience."
Included in this bill is the price of additional attorneys that Mr. Bromwich has taken it upon himself to assist in his monitoring of Apple's business. It's not clear if that was in his court-ordered mandate.
From the outside, the whole situation appears completely messed up, and in my seldom-humble opinion, Mr. Bromwich is shamelessly attempting to take advantage of the situation. If the courts are going to mandate an outside watcher for any company, surely the courts should carefully spell out what that watcher can do, who he or she can hire, and precisely how much they can charge.
To do otherwise invites precisely these kinds of shenanigans.
Even worse than the outrageous fees Mr. Bromwich is trying to charge are the rules that allow him to interview employees without counsel present and to then report to Judge Cote without Apple's attorneys present, either. Both rules seem to infringe on Apple's right to counsel.
If so, of course, either Judge Cote or a higher court will set things to rights, but in the meanwhile it remains perplexing.