The 2nd United States Court of Appeals ruled that attorney, Michael Bromwich, may return to his duties as monitor of Apple’s anti-monopoly policies, amidst complaints by the company and counter claims by Bromwich. A United States Court of Appeals ruled that Apple failed to prove that Michael Bromwich, its court-appointed e-books antitrust monitor, has caused the company irreparable harm. Apple told the court that Mr Bromwich interfered with its business operations and imposing substantial and rapidly escalating costs as monitor.
Senior U.S. Federal Judge Denise Cote appointed Bromwich as antitrust compliance monitor following antitrust case last year which ruled that Apple violated the Sherman Act by conspiring to raise prices of its ebooks. The opening months of his investigation were characterized by Apple’s complaints that he was engaged in a roving investigation that interfered with Apple’s business operations. Bromwich issued his own complaints.
Bromwich’s duties were to evaluate whether Apple’s compliance and training programs were designed to detect and prevent violations of antitrust laws. According to the court, the government instructed Apple that it not only must have an antitrust compliance program in place, but that employees, particularly senior executives and board members, clearly understand antitrust laws. Michael Bromwich, a Washington lawyer, may resume his duties though he must abide by strict guidelines. The court stated that the monitor may evaluate whether an antitrust compliance program is adequate, but not whether Apple employees and management were following antitrust laws.
Apple charged that Bromwich over stepped his bounds for personal gain, The allegations include charging almost $140,000 in legal fees for just two weeks of work, and of improperly seeking interviews with key personnel and access to company documents, off-limits to interview. The rules that counsel must be present during all interviews conducted by Bromwich, which Apple claims he did not follow.
Bromwich, responded to Apple’s accusations saying that most of the people he has interviewed were themselves lawyers, He has also complained of being blocked from legally available documents, and speaking to other Apple employees with whom he is legally allowed to do so.
According to Department of Justice spokeswoman Gina Talamona, the federal government was pleased with the court’s latest decision. She stated that the government agrees with the need for a court appointed attorney to monitor Apple’s antitrust compliance policies, ensuring that the firm does not engage in future price-fixing. Consumers should never have to pay the price of a company’s illegal conduct, Talamona stated.
Judge Cote will hear a case determining the amount Apple will have to pay in damages over the e-book antitrust conviction. Prosecution will include 33 state attorneys general and class action attorneys representing consumers from 16 states. The plaintiffs are seeking $840 million, according to court documents.
The two sides appear prepared to pursue their respective cases for as long as it takes. For now Apple will have to live with Bromwich, while he must abide by the stringently stated rules. The antitrust case promises to be expensive, and to last well into the foreseeable future. At the current pace, a Supreme Court case is possible.
By Ian Erickson