Bloomberg News

Apple E-Books Monitor Should Be Free to Query Cook, U.S. Argues

December 31, 2013

iBook

A digital book is displayed on an Apple Inc. iPad for a photograph in New York. Photographer: Scott Eells/Bloomberg

Apple Inc. faces opposition from the U.S. in its bid to block an antitrust monitor appointed in a electronic books price-fixing case from interviewing top executives and directors, including chief executive officer Tim Cook and board member Al Gore.

The government said the monitor, former Justice Department inspector general Michael Bromwich, should be allowed to interview the company’s leaders, as such activities are “standard procedure in monitorships,” according to a filing yesterday in Manhattan federal court. Bromwich was appointed in October by U.S. District Judge Denise Cote to evaluate Apple’s antitrust compliance policies.

The Cupertino, California-based technology company said in court papers filed in November that the monitor was operating in an “unfettered an inappropriate manner,” and was overstepping his authority by pressing for immediate interviews with senior management.

“Stripped of its blustery rhetoric and personal attacks, Apple’s motion is about its desire to shield its highest-level executives and board members from the perceived inconvenience of having to sit for these interviews,” Justice Department lawyers said in papers filed yesterday.

Apple’s claim that Bromwich’s request would result in loss of market share growth at the world’s biggest technology company is “wholly unbelievable,” the U.S. lawyers said.

‘Central Role’

In July, Cote found that Apple played a “central role” in facilitating an antitrust conspiracy with book publishers to fix prices of electronic books. The company has appealed her findings.

In a separate filing yesterday, Bromwich said that the company has provided him only with limited access to personnel during his investigation. When he made initial inquiries about interviewing senior leaders, one board member told him that the executives and directors were “very busy, and that we would see a ’lot of anger,’ about the case still existed within the company,” Bromwich said in his filing.

During the two months since his appointment, Bromwich said he has been permitted to interview only 11 people at the company, seven of whom were lawyers rather than business people. The monitor said he was given access to only one member of the board of directors and one executive.

Interviews took place at an off-site location rather than at the company’s headquarters, he said.

Kristin Huguet, a spokeswoman for Apple, didn’t immediately respond to a phone call seeking comment on the government’s filing.

The case is U.S. v. Apple Inc. (AAPL:US), 12-cv-02826, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

To contact the reporter on this story: Christie Smythe in Brooklyn at csmythe1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net


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