U.S. judge says she is troubled by Apple $450 million e-books deal

Thu Jul 24, 2014 9:58pm EDT
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By Nate Raymond

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A U.S. judge on Thursday expressed concern over a proposed $450 million settlement of claims Apple Inc (AAPL.O: Quote) conspired with five publishers to fix e-book prices, saying its provisions could drastically reduce money paid to consumers depending on appeals.

U.S. District Judge Denise Cote in Manhattan said she found "most troubling" a clause requiring Apple to pay only $70 million if an appeals court reversed her finding that the company is liable for antitrust violations and sent it back to her for further proceedings.

Speaking on a teleconference, Cote questioned if that would be fair and what might happen if the appeals court reversed her ruling on a minor issue. She also took issue with the lack of any requirement for Apple to pay interest while the appeals go forward.

"I'm concerned about the terms of the settlement," she said.

The comments came a week after 33 U.S. states and territories and lawyers for a class of consumers submitted the settlement for Cote's preliminary approval, and to avoid a scheduled Aug. 25 damages trial.

Cote scheduled the trial after ruling last July that Apple was liable for colluding with publishers to impede e-book competitors such as Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O: Quote).

The publishers include Lagardere SCA's (LAGA.PA: Quote) Hachette Book Group Inc, News Corp's (NWSA.O: Quote) HarperCollins Publishers LLC, Penguin Group (USA) Inc, CBS Corp's CBS.N Simon & Schuster Inc and Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck GmbH's Macmillan.

Cote's ruling came in an April 2012 lawsuit by the U.S. Department of Justice and the state attorneys general.   Continued...

The Apple logo is pictured inside the newly opened Omotesando Apple store at a shopping district in Tokyo June 26, 2014. REUTERS/Yuya Shino/Files