Judge Cote Agrees to Pull Antitrust Monitor from Apple

Apple's dysfunctional relationship with court appointed monitor Michael Bromwich is coming to an end. The U.S. Department of Justice urged Denise Cote, the Judge who placed him inside the company following her ruling that Apple was part of a conspiracy to artificially raise the price of ebooks, to end his position and she agreed.

Apple's antitrust monitor is out this FridayApple's antitrust monitor is out this Friday

The DOJ filed a letter requesting Judge Cote let Mr. Bromwich's two-year position end without any extension. He had been charged with monitoring Apple's activities to ensure the company didn't engage in anticompetitive practices, and that it set up training programs to teach employees how to avoid anticompetitive activities.

Apple and several publishers were accused of colluding to artificially raise the price of books, leading the DOJ to file its case against them. The publishers all settled out of court to avoid legal expenses and possible fines, but Apple maintained it did nothing wrong and was simply trying to compete in a market dominated by Amazon.

In the end, Judge Cote sided with the DOJ and found Apple guilty of antitrust violations. She ordered a court appointed monitor to ensure that the company doesn't engage in further antitrust activities. The order was something of a surprise because court monitors are typically used in cases of ongoing antitrust violations, and in agreement with the company—neither of which where the case with Apple.

Apple described its relationship with Mr. Bromwich as "rocky at times," which is spot-on. Apple said Mr. Bromwich was overstepping his bounds and demanding to interview executives who fell outside the scope of his duties, and that he was acting as an investigator instead of a monitor.

The company's legal team described Mr. Bromwich's activities as an "overzealous romp through Apple's executive suite."

The iPhone and iPad maker also balked at the fees they were charged for his time, which started off with a US$138,432 bill for two weeks of work. Apple asked the Court to remove Mr. Bromwich, but Judge Cote refused.

Apple has been appealing Judge Cote's ruling in the case, most recently in the U.S. Court of Appeals. The panel of Judges reviewing the case were torn, but ultimately upheld Judge Cote's verdict and sentencing. Apple is now considering taking its case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Regardless of what happens with the case, Apple will finally be rid of Mr. Bromwich. His two-year term ends on Friday, and it's pretty clear he won't be welcome back once he's gone.

[Thanks to Reuters for the heads up]