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Steve Berman appointed lead plaintiffs counsel in e-book suits

Cases target major publishers and Apple over e-book price-fixing claims

Yesterday, U.S. District Judge Denise Cote appointed Steve Berman as lead counsel in multiple ongoing antitrust lawsuits against some major publishers and Apple.

The cases center on claims that Apple engaged in a price-fixing scheme with several major New York publishers—including HarperCollins, Penguin Group, Hachette Book Group, Simon & Schuster and Barnes & Noble—to set prices of e-books. Berman, who’s a named partner in Seattle-based Hagens Bergman, has claimed the companies have engaged in a “conspiracy.” The publishers and Apple deny any wrongdoing.

When appointing Berman as lead counsel, Cote appeared to take into consideration that he was first to file one of these antitrust suits against the companies, the Wall Street Journal reports. At the time, she also appointed plaintiffs firm Cohen Milstein to serve as assistant counsel to Berman.

Berman isn’t alone in his allegations about the companies’ e-book price-fixing conspiracy. Earlier this month, the European Union began investigating whether Apple and the publishers illegally raised prices of e-books. Its investigation is targeting publishers Hachette Livre, a unit of France's Lagardere Publishing; Harper Collins, owned by Rupert Murdoch's U.S.-based News Corp.; CBS Corp.’s Simon & Schuster; Penguin, which is owned by U.K. publishing house Pearson Group; and Germany's Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck, which owns Macmillan.

“The commission has concerns that these practices may breach EU antitrust rules that prohibit cartels and restrictive business practices,” the European Commission said in a statement.

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Cathleen Flahardy

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