Apple has finally got the relief it was seeking. Somewhat. A federal appeals court gave the technology giant a temporary relief from having an external monitor, who was initially appointed for the company after it was found liable last July for fixing the prices of e-books, which is a violation of antitrust laws.
The latest decision to grant Apple the motion to be temporarily free of the external monitor was made by U.S. Circuit Judge Raymond Lohier Jr. of the U.S. Court of Appeals in New York, pending the three-judge panel that will hear the request for a longer period of relief from the external monitor. The U.S. Department of Justice has until January 24 to file opposition papers on this administrative stay.
Under the cases U.S. v. Apple Inc, 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 14-60; and U.S. v. Apple Inc, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 12-02826, the court-appointed antitrust compliance monitor is former Assistant U.S. Attorney and Justice Department Inspector General Michael Bromwich, who was appointed last October. Bromwich was mandated to work for Apple and ensure its compliance with antitrust laws for the next two years.
Apple, however, lost no time in trying to get rid of Bromwich, accusing him of being biased against the company. In January 8, Apple requested a federal judge to remove Michael Bromwich, saying that Bromwich was not objective and impartial in the report he submitted to the court last December. Apple also said that Bromwich charged the company exorbitant legal fees. Bromwich allegedly charged Apple $1,100 per hour for his services, racking up a total bill of $138,432 for two weeks of work.
Apple's lawyers, Theodore Boutrous and Cynthia Richman, decried the court's assignment of an external monitor. In the papers filed in the court, Apple says, "Mr. Bromwich's now-open opposition to Apple and collaboration with plaintiffs prevent him from legally and constitutionally serving as this Court's agent under Rule 53."
"As an 'advocate for the plaintiffs,' acting like an Executive Branch official, Mr. Bromwich cannot impartially fulfill the role this Court gave him in the Final Judgment; he must therefore be disqualified and a stay should be granted. Whereas this Court intended 'to rest as lightly as possible on the way Apple runs its business,' Mr. Bromwich thinks he has a license to 'crawl into [the] company,' and as a result continues to demand that Apple 'take down barriers' to his access so he can set up shop in Apple's boardroom and executive offices in Cupertino for two years in order to monitor and change the corporate culture," Apple said in its court filings.
Apple is just one of six companies that the Justice Department charged in April 2012 for conspiring to fix the price of e-books to topple Amazon's stronghold over the market. Five other companies were book publishers who agreed to settle the case to avoid a trial, but Apple remained defiant, prompting Judge Denise Cote to rule that Apple did orchestrate the conspiracy.