October 13, 2015 / 11:10 AM / in 2 years

U.S. judge says Apple e-books antitrust monitor's term to end

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A U.S. judge on Tuesday agreed to not extend the term of a court-appointed monitor assigned to review Apple Inc’s antitrust compliance program despite the difficult environment the monitor faced in dealing with the iPad maker.

An Apple logo hangs above the entrance to the Apple store on 5th Avenue in the Manhattan borough of New York City, July 21, 2015. REUTERS/Mike Segar

The decision from U.S. District Judge Denise Cote in Manhattan came a day after the U.S. Justice Department recommended not extending the appointment of Michael Bromwich, who was named monitor after Apple was found liable for conspiring to raise e-book prices.

Cote noted that Bromwich had faced a “challenging relationship” with Apple, which fought unsuccessfully to disqualify him as monitor. The Justice Department said its recommendation was “not an easy one” given that relationship.

But Cote said Bromwich had “persevered and made numerous recommendations to Apple for the improvement of its antitrust compliance program,” the vast majority of which Apple implemented.

“The monitor has ably performed a significant public service in a difficult environment,” Cote wrote.

The decision means that Bromwich’s two-year term will end on Friday. Bromwich declined through a spokeswoman to comment.

Apple also declined comment. In its joint-letter with the Justice Department on Monday, Apple acknowledged its relationship with Bromwich was “rocky at times,” but said it would continue to comply with its obligations.

Bromwich, a former U.S. Justice Department inspector general, was named in October 2013 by Cote after she found Apple liable in a civil antitrust case brought by the Justice Department.

Since Bromwich’s appointment, Apple repeatedly tried to have him ousted, saying he was aggressively seeking interviews with executives and engaging in private discussions with the Justice Department.

For his part, Bromwich, a lawyer, faulted Apple for refusing to provide access and adopting an “adversarial tone” toward him.

Cote found Apple schemed with five book publishers from 2009 to 2010 to raise e-book prices in an effort to slow competitors such as Amazon.com Inc.

The publishers – Lagardere SCA’s Hachette Book Group Inc, News Corp’s HarperCollins Publishers LLC, Penguin Group Inc, CBS Corp’s Simon & Schuster Inc and Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck GmbH’s Macmillan – settled the allegations.

In June, a divided U.S. appeals court in New York upheld Cote’s finding, rejecting Apple’s argument that it had engaged in pro-competitive behavior.

Apple is considering whether to appeal that decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.

If it stands, the appellate ruling would require Apple to pay $450 million in a settlement of related claims by 31 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and consumers.

The case is U.S. v. Apple Inc, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 12-2826.

Reporting by Nate Raymond in New York; Editing by W Simon and Christian Plumb

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