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Apple Settles E-Books Pricing Case With States, Consumers

Apple Inc. (AAPL) reached a settlement with U.S. states and consumers seeking damages over the company’s fixing of electronic book prices, avoiding a trial in which it faced as much as $840 million in claims.

The trial set for July involved cases related to a ruling last year that company had orchestrated an illegal scheme with publishers to raise e-book prices.

A federal judge in Manhattan today ordered Apple and its adversaries to submit a filing seeking approval of their accord within one month. Details of the agreement weren’t disclosed.

The U.S. government sued Apple and five of the biggest publishers in April 2012, claiming the maker of the iPad pushed them to sign agreements letting it sell digital copies of their books under a pricing model that made most e-books more expensive. Under the contracts, the publishers set book prices, with Apple getting 30 percent.

Apple and the publishers used the contracts to force Amazon.com, the No. 1 e-book seller, to change its pricing model, the government claimed. At the time, Amazon was selling electronic versions of best-selling books for $9.99, which was often below cost. U.S. District Judge Denise Cote ruled against Apple after a non-jury trial.

Steve Berman, a lawyer representing the plaintiffs, said by phone that all the U.S. attorneys general and consumers settled the case. Berman said he filed a memorandum of understanding with the court under seal, which prevents him from describing the agreement.

Kristin Huguet, a spokeswoman for Cupertino, California-based Apple, declined to comment on the settlement.

Apple will continue its appeal of Cote’s ruling, according to today’s filing.

The case is In Re Electronic Books Antitrust Litigation, 11-md-2293, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

To contact the reporter on this story: Joel Rosenblatt in San Francisco at jrosenblatt@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net Peter Blumberg

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