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Antitrust Monitor Miffed With Apple, Files Declaration

By Brett Snider, Esq. on January 03, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Apple is allegedly doing its darnedest to obstruct its newest court-ordered monitor, a lawyer who is supposed to be probing for antitrust violations.

Beginning in October, Justice Department Inspector General Michael Bromwich was assigned to monitor the Silicon Valley company's business practices, but he is now complaining that his efforts are "largely being ignored," reports CNET.

This frustration is crystallized in the "Bromwich Declaration" which outlines Bromwich's grievances to the federal court.

The 'Bromwich Declaration'

Last time we checked in on Apple's e-Book pricing case, a federal district court was putting a bow on a permanent injunction that would force the company's dealings to be monitored by a third-party for two years. This requirement was intended to ensure that Apple complied with the meat of the order: not to engage in price-fixing agreements with publishers.

Enter Bromwich, and his less-than-pleased declaration of all the ways in which Apple is essentially thwarting its court-ordered monitoring. Some highlights include:

  • Apple complaining about the cost of Bromwich's monitoring
  • Apple objecting to the scope of Bromwich's monitoring
  • Fighting over delaying monitoring until 2014
  • Limiting interviews with executives to one hour
  • Scheduling bickering
  • Complaints from Apple that the monitoring was "a broad and amorphous inquisition."

In short, Apple was making it difficult to interview the people that Bromwich wanted to speak to as well as throwing a fit about it.

Can Apple Really Complain?

The things that Apple believes is beyond the scope of the antitrust order is what Bromwich is calling "preliminary background interviews" to determine the corporation's structure and culture. To be sure, monitoring a corporation as large and as profitable as Apple would need some sort of detailed process -- unless Apple just expected a rubber stamp.

In fact, the e-Book suit came to its Apple-saddening conclusion only by the grace of various email correspondences between high-level executives, none of which would be gleaned from simply talking to Apple's antitrust compliance officer.

As Bromwich mentioned in his declaration, it's also important to gauge the "tone" of Apple's higher echelons. The monitor's assessment of Apple's actual commitment to compliance does take into account how royally pissed the execs are at the court's final ruling. And while they're not expected to love it, active, seething resentment isn't a productive legal posture either.

Also, this isn't a business deal, this is a permanent injunction; a punishment wrapped in a punishment for antitrust conduct a court ruled was illegal. It isn't pleasant and it shouldn't need to be.

Our advice: take your medicine Apple.

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