Apple antitrust monitor: So far, so good -- but could be better

Michael Bromwich says that Apple has become more responsive to his inquiries regarding its e-book price-fixing case, but he'd like to have time with the company's senior leadership.

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The court-appointed monitor tasked with ensuring that Apple acts fairly and in compliance with antitrust laws following the company's e-book price-fixing case loss last year has high hopes for the company.

In a 77-page report filed Monday in US District Court in New York, Michael Bromwich said that his dealings with Apple are off to a "promising start." While Apple was initially loath to have him on its campus, Bromwich said, the company's relationship with his team has "significantly improved" over the last couple of months. He noted that the company is doing some, but not all, of what it needs to do to fulfill its antitrust obligations.

"Based on the information Apple has provided to date, our view is that Apple has made a promising start to enhancing its antitrust compliance program, but that Apple still has much work to do," Bromwich wrote, according to Reuters, which obtained a copy of the report.

Bromwich was appointed Apple's monitor last year following its loss in an e-book case.The US Justice Department had sued Apple, along with five of the six largest book publishers in the US, accusing them of colluding on e-book prices to disrupt Amazon's control on that market. While the publishers settled the case for over $166 million, Apple tried its luck in the court and lost, with Judge Denise Cote saying that the iPhone maker "orchestrated" the e-book price-fixing "conspiracy."

Earlier this year, Apple was again in court before Cote, arguing that Bromwich had a personal bias against the company. Apple asked that Bromwich be removed from the position of antitrust monitor, adding that his fees -- $138,000 for his first two weeks of work late last year -- were excessive.

After hearing Apple's arguments Cote denied Apple's request, requiring the parties to work together.

Despite the improved relationships between the parties, Bromwich still isn't entirely pleased with Apple. He said in his report that he has been given little time with employees and hasn't had the access to senior employees he's requested. He did laud Apple, however, for hiring former Hitachi attorney Deena Said as its in-house antitrust compliance officer.

Bromwich will remain in Cupertino at Apple's headquarters for two years, in accordance with the court's orders. Apple is appealing last year's loss but will be court in July when damages will be determined.

CNET has contacted Apple for comment on the Bromwich report. We will update this story when we have more information.

Apple shares are up 26 cents, or 0.05 percent to $521.94 in pre-market trading on Tuesday.

 

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