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Apple claims court-appointed e-book monitor is overcharging

Apple says Michael Bromwich charged $138,432 for his first two weeks of work

Tech giant Apple has not been too happy with the results of the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) probe into an e-book price fixing scheme; the company has already spoken out against both the DOJ's penalties in the case as well as potential regulatory actions that would monitor Apple’s e-book sales moving forward.

But as those regulatory actions have been enacted, Apple now has a new complaint: The company says the court-appointed monitor is costing the company way too much money.

A federal judge appointed attorney Michael Bromwich to oversee Apple’s compliance with federal rules concerning e-book prices. In his first couple weeks on the job, however, the company says it has been getting overcharged. According to a Manhattan court filing, Apple says Bromwich proposed an hourly fee of $1,100. All told, according to Bloomberg, Bromwich charged $138,432 for his first two weeks of work.

Apple says that the company has never paid any other lawyer a higher hourly fee and that the price is “unprecedented in Apple’s experience.” Bromwich’s rate and an added 15 percent administrative fee, the company says, come directly from the fact that Apple is not allowed to hire another lawyer, per court order.

“Mr. Bromwich appears to be simply taking advantage of the fact that there is no competition here or, in his view, any ability on the part of Apple, the subject of his authority, to push back on his demands,” Apple’s lawyers said in the filing.

Bromwich says the administrative fee is necessary, as he is handling the assignment through his consultancy, the Bromwich Group, rather than his law firm, Goodwin Procter LLP. Apple’s lawyers argue that this distinction “seems slippery at best,” especially in light of a Goodwin Procter press release touting Bromwich’s appointment as Apple’s monitor.

In May 2013, the DOJ ruled that Apple spearheaded a price-fixing scheme that included five different publishers — MacMillan, Penguin Group, Hachette, HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster. Apple denies the DOJ’s claims but was still subject to penalties and regulatory actions handed down in August.

For more on the ongoing e-books drama, check out these InsideCounsel stories:

Judge appoints attorney to oversee Apple e-book sales practices

Apple says DOJ’s e-book penalties put it at a disadvantage

DOJ says Apple spearheaded e-book price-fixing scheme

Apple and e-book publishers offer proposed settlement with EU

Apple takes on suits over e-books and Siri

Apple rejects DOJ charge of e-book price collusion

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