The United States government’s antitrust case against Apple iBooks practices has shined a new light on compliance monitors and how they can potentially interfere with business operations of respective companies they are appointed to.
The debate comes amid controversy over a court-appointed compliance officer assigned to Apple for antitrust monitorship. U.S. District Judge Denise Cote had appointed an attorney to investigate and review Apple’s antitrust compliance policies after she ruled in July that the company had colluded with five book publishers to intentionally spike e-book prices.
Cote had appointed Michael Bromwich for the job, but Apple and Bromwich have been at loggerheads for months, sparring from the “scope of his authority to cost,” one of the company’s chief complaints.
A U.S. Appeals court granted Apple a hearing on whether to stop Bromwich from doing his court-appointed job. Bromwich is one of two candidates that was selected by the Justice Department, despite Apple’s objections and claims that he’s biased against the company.
Most recently, according to Macrumors, Cote denied Apple's attempts to thwart its antitrust monitorship. Apple had asked the court for both a stay on the original order requiring an external compliance monitor (due to a pending appeal) and the removal of Bromwich. Both requests were denied. Bromwich, for his part, claimed that he experienced "a surprising and disappointing lack of cooperation from Apple and its executives,” filing a complaint against the company in late December. Apple responded by requesting his removal last week, stating that Bromwich has a “personal bias” against the company.
The Wall Street Journal’s Christopher Matthews contends that Apple’s on-going feud with Bromwich is unusual, and generally, Justice Department settlements are agreed to by companies and the government.
It is unclear how often judges have imposed monitors on companies. Keith Hylton, a professor at Boston University School of Law, said Judge Cote’s decision could set a precedent. If her ruling is upheld by an appeals court, which could hear the case this year, it could open the door for more court-appointed monitors, particularly in antitrust cases,” Hylton said.
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