Apple stuck with antitrust monitor on e-book pricing

A district court judge has ruled against Apple’s attempt to block a court-appointed monitor, ordering the company to continue to work with an official to watch its pricing of e-books.

Denise Cote, a judge on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, declared on Thursday that there has been “no showing” that Apple would “suffer irreparable harm” because of the compliance monitor.

The antitrust monitor was appointed last year when Cote ruled that Apple colluded with book publishers to fix the price of e-books. Apple has fought against the order since then, in what the Justice Department characterized as a “campaign of character assassination.”

“The deterioration of the relationship between Apple and the Monitor is unfortunate and disappointing,” Cote said in an opinion released on Thursday. “Hopefully, that relationship can be ‘reset’ and placed on a productive course. But it is strongly in the public’s interest for the Monitor to remain in place.”

Apple has claimed that the monitor, Michael Bromwich, is biased against the company because of his prior statements and because he has a financial stake in staying on as the monitor, a position for which he is paid.

But the firm ”has not shown even a possibility of success” in that argument, Cote declared. Nor has Bromwich overstepped his authority beyond the point that the court can correct, as Apple has also charged.

Instead, Cote ruled that an antitrust monitor is essential to protecting the public interest and preventing consumers from being abused by Apple's price fixing. The court needs to force Apple to live up to its agreements, she added, because it has already proven a willingness to violate the law.

“While Apple would prefer to have no Monitor, it has failed to show that it is in the public interest to stop his work,” she wrote. “If anything, Apple’s reaction to the existence of a monitorship underscores the wisdom of its imposition.”