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Apple $450 Million E-Book Accord Wins Early Approval

Aug. 1 (Bloomberg) -- Apple Inc. won preliminary approval of a settlement in which it could pay $450 million to resolve claims by U.S. states and consumers that it led a conspiracy to fix prices on electronic books.

U.S. District Judge Denise Cote in Manhattan said today that there’s “probable cause to find that the proposed settlement agreement is within the range of those that may be approved as fair and reasonable.”

Under the agreement, Apple will pay $400 million plus $50 million in attorneys’ fees if a federal appeals court agrees with Cote that the Cupertino, California-based company violated U.S. antitrust laws. If Apple wins the appeal, it pays nothing under the settlement.

The agreement calls for Apple to pay $50 million plus $20 million in attorneys’ fees if the appeals court sends the case back to Cote for a retrial.

Cote set Nov. 21 for a fairness hearing, in which she’ll consider whether to give final approval to the agreement.

The judge ruled last year in a case filed by the U.S. Justice Department that Apple conspired with five of the biggest publishers to fix e-book prices in response to competition from Amazon.com Inc. The parties announced the settlement in June, weeks before a damages trial in which Apple would have faced claims of as much as $674 million, according to Cote.

States and consumers have recovered $166 million from settlements with Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins Publishers LLC, Simon & Schuster Inc., Pearson Plc’s Penguin Group and the Macmillan unit of Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck GmbH.

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: Bob Van Voris in federal court in Manhattan at rvanvoris@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net Andrew Dunn, David Glovin

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