Apple E-Book Antitrust Monitoring May End After Rocky Course

  • Government says company has put meaningful reforms in place
  • Apple says relations with monitor were `rocky at times'

The U.S. Justice Department said it’s satisfied Apple Inc. put in place reforms to comply with antitrust laws even though the company fought with a monitor appointed to oversee its sale of electronic books.

The government on Monday recommended that the monitoring not be extended.

Apple has “now implemented meaningful antitrust policies, procedures, and training programs that were obviously lacking at the time Apple participated in and facilitated the horizontal price-fixing conspiracy found by this court,” the U.S. said in a letter to the Manhattan federal judge who found in 2013 that the company illegally conspired with publishers to set e-book prices.

The Justice Department said Apple “never embraced a cooperative working relationship with the monitor.” Apple acknowledged its relationship with the monitor was “rocky at times,” but disagreed that it wasn’t willing to cooperate.

Apple said in Monday’s joint letter to U.S. District Judge Denise Cote that it’s committed to fulfilling its obligations, including training, antitrust risk assessment and audits.

“Over the past two years, Apple has developed and implemented a comprehensive, engaging, and effective antitrust compliance program,” the company said.

Apple in May lost its legal challenge to the appointment of monitor Michael Bromwich, a former Justice Department inspector general. The relationship between Apple and Bromwich was contentious from the start, with Apple claiming the monitor asked prematurely to interview Apple directors and submitted excessive bills. Bromwich complained of foot-dragging and lack of cooperation from Apple executives.

In June, a divided federal appeals court let stand Cote’s July 2013 ruling that Apple “played a central role” in conspiring with five publishers to fix the prices of e-books.

The case is U.S. v. Apple Inc., 12-cv-02826, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).