Appeals Court Limits Apple's Antitrust Monitor, But Allows Him to Proceed

Apple in CourtAn appeals court has imposed limitations on an antitrust monitor imposed on Apple by Judge Denise, but in doing so the three judge panel rejected Apple's claim to delay the monitor's work while the company appeals its conviction as an antitrust violator.

In 2013, Apple was convicted for being the ringleader in a conspiracy with publishers to raise ebook prices. As part of the remedy process, Judge Cote imposed a monitor named Michael Bromwich whose job was to monitor Apple's compliance in reforming its internal antitrust compliance.

Friction between Mr. Bromwich and Apple's executives began almost immediately, as Mr. Bromwich began what Apple's characterized as a wide-ranging quasi-prosecutorial investigation into just about everything at Apple. The company also complained that Mr. Bromwich demanded interviews with every senior executive and board member, few of whom had anything to do with antitrust compliance.

For his part, Mr. Bromwich said that he was doing what he was hired to do, an opinion seemingly backed up by various rulings from Judge Cote who said that he should continue his work at his earliest convenience. Apple won a brief reprieve, however, when a single judge on the 2nd Circuit issued a temporary stay on the monitor pending a full hearing.

Apple is appealing both its conviction and the imposition of the monitor, but Monday's ruling from the 2nd Circuit dealt with a separate action to delay the monitor while that appeals process worked its way through the courts. In arguments last week, Apple made the case that dealing with the monitor, and paying for the monitor, was time, effort, and money the company wouldn't be able to recover should it win its appeal.

The appellate judges weren't buying that argument, however, and according to Reuters, they allowed the monitor to proceed with his work. They did, however, specify that Mr. Bromwich's duties were limited to assessing Apple's compliance with antitrust laws.

Citing a description of what the monitor should be doing from the Department of Justice—which prosecuted the case against Apple—the judges also specified that Mr. Bromwich would not be allowed to investigate whether individual employees were violating antitrust law. Instead, he will be allowed only to turn over any evidence to Judge Cote.

For Apple, that means the company will have to live with Mr. Bromwich for several months, at the very least. Apple's first hearing on its full appeal is scheduled for May of 2014, and the proceedings and ruling from a full panel of 2nd Circuit judges could take weeks or months to conclude.