After dragging its feet for months, Apple is finally making good progress on a court-ordered antitrust compliance program related to the U.S. Department of Justice’s ebook price-fixing case against the company, an external monitor said.
Apple, after fighting the court appointment of external monitor Michael Bromwich, has “made a promising start” to improving its antitrust compliance program, Bromwich wrote in a report filed with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York Monday. Judge Denise Cote ruled in July 2013 that Apple colluded with five publishers to fix prices of ebooks, and Apple has appealed that decision.
Still, the company has a lot of work to do, Bromwich wrote in a 77-page report to the district court.
Apple didn’t immediately respond to a request for comments on Bromwich’s report.
Since late February, after an appeals court ruled against Apple’s request to have Bromwich removed, “there has been a shift in tone in our relationship,” Bromwich wrote. “We have started to receive more information, we have seen a greater commitment to resolve lingering disputes, and we are starting to see the original pledges of cooperation and collaboration, which for many months were at odds with the company’s actions, fulfilled.”
Apple has revised its company-wide internal antitrust compliance policy, but it should create policies addressing its individual business units, Bromwich recommended. The company has hired an internal antitrust officer, but Bromwich’s team has received little information about a recommended antitrust risk assessment, and the company has not yet provided information about its procedures for investigating potential violations of the antitrust order, he said.
Apple must improve its record-keeping related to antitrust compliance, and the compliance team hasn’t received information about any antitrust training programs at the company, Bromwich said. The monitoring team has been unsuccessful in its attempts to speak with senior executives at Apple, even though the district court noted “a blatant and aggressive disregard” for antitrust law by executives during the price-fixing deals, he added.
Apple, in its appeal of Bromwich’s appointment, said the former federal prosector’s fees were excessive and describing him as “adversarial, inquisitorial and prosecutorial.” In February, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit rejected Apple’s request to remove him.
“The initial stages of this monitorship were far more difficult and contentious than we anticipated,” Bromwich wrote. “That is regrettable and was avoidable.”