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Apple seeks to disqualify compliance monitor in e-book price-fixing case

Attorneys representing Apple [corporate website] on Wednesday formally sought to disqualify court-appointed "external compliance monitor" Michael Bromwich, who was given the power to review and evaluate the tech company's compliance with an injunction related to an e-book price fixing scandal. In September a judge for the US District Court for the Southern District of New York [official website] enjoined Apple [JURIST report] from contracting with publishing companies that restrict, limit or impede the Apple's ability to set, alter or reduce the retail price of any e-book for a period of five years. The order also appointed Bromwich as overseer of Apple's compliance with the judgment. Apple's attorneys previously asserted that Bromwich exceeded his mandate [Reuters report] by seeking to interview top executives before the date set by the court. Now Apple alleges that Bromwich is biased against the company and that his fee of more than $1000 (USD) an hour incentivizes intrusive and overzealous inspection into the company's affairs.

The September injunction followed a July decision which ruled [JURIST report] that Apple violated the Sherman Act and various state statutes in an e-book price-fixing conspiracy. The US Department of Justice (DOJ) accused Apple of working with major publishers to increase the price of their e-books. Five publishers, Hachette Book Group Inc., HarperCollins Publishers L.L.C., Simon & Schuster Inc., Penguin Group (USA) Inc. and Macmillan, were originally named in the complaint, but all have since reached a settlement with the government. In May the judge presiding over the case issued a tentative ruling [JURST report] that the government would be successful in its antitrust claim. The DOJ alleged that Apple, Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin and Simon & Schuster conspired to fix the prices of e-books in response to Amazon's discount pricing strategy. The DOJ originally brought the suit in April 2012, and the court denied a motion to dismiss [JURIST reports] in May of last year.

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