A U.S. federal appeals court is considering restricting the powers of a court-appointed monitor's investigation into Apple's ebook price fixing case.
In October 2013, a U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York appointed Michael Bromwich to oversee Apple's ebook pricing activities. The monitor's appointment came as a result of a ruling by U.S. District Judge Denise Cote, which says that Apple played an important role in an arrangement to fix prices for ebooks. The court ruling barred Apple from "entering into anti-competitive contracts with ebook publishers."
In December 2013, Bromwich filed a document with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York that he is not getting sufficient assistance from Apple's legal team, executives and board members to conduct his investigations.
However, Apple accused Bromwich, a former Assistant U.S. Attorney and Justice Department Inspector General, of taking advantage of the situation and charging exorbitant fees. Bromwich had proposed an hourly fee of $1,100, which Apple believed was quite high when compared to fees charged in previous Apple matters.
Apple also stated that along with the hourly fees, Bromwich is also charging an additional 15 percent as administration costs and is also charging fees for lawyers who were assisting him in the investigation.
Apple made a request that the monitor's powers be curbed until the appeals judges decide on whether Bromwich's appointment was acceptable. Following Apple's request, Bromwich's investigations were temporarily halted so that the appeals court can consider the company's request.
On Tuesday, February 4, a three-judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments from Apple and judge Gerald Lynch asked Apple lawyer Theodore J. Boutrous Jr. if it would be acceptable if the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals outlined the limits of Bromwich's duties while the appeals process proceeds.
Boutrous said that such an order will definitely help resolve the situation but is not a remedy for the constitutional deficiencies, which Apple sees with the appointment of a monitor.
Boutrous also added that Bromwich has already affected Apple's ability to manage its business as he demanded meetings with Apple's senior executives to meet with him on short notice.
Bruce Sewell, Apple's general counsel and senior vice president of legal and government affairs, says that Bromwich calls for "voluminous historical documents." Sewell also added that Apple has provided 303 pages of information requested by Bromwich, but the monitor claims that the information received from Apple is incomplete and not per his request.
Bromwich's work is still on hold and will only commence when the court makes a decision.