Apple seeks removal of court-appointed antitrust monitor

NEW YORK Tue Jan 7, 2014 10:03pm EST

A man walks past the logo at an Apple store in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen, neighbouring Hong Kong September 9, 2013. REUTERS/Bobby Yip

A man walks past the logo at an Apple store in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen, neighbouring Hong Kong September 9, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Bobby Yip

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Apple Inc is seeking the removal of a lawyer appointed by a court to monitor its antitrust compliance following a ruling last year that the company had conspired to fix e-book prices.

An attorney for the consumer technology giant on Tuesday asked U.S. District Judge Denise Cote in Manhattan to disqualify Michael Bromwich from serving as an external compliance monitor, arguing he had shown a personal bias against the company.

In a letter to Cote, Apple's lawyer cited a "wholly inappropriate declaration" filed by Bromwich last month.

In the declaration, Bromwich defended his work as a monitor against Apple's complaint that he had overstepped his mandate. He also detailed his unsuccessful efforts to gain Apple's cooperation for his assignment.

Cote appointed Bromwich in October following a ruling she made in July finding Apple liable for conspiring with five publishers to raise e-book prices above those established by the dominant retailer in the market, Amazon.com Inc.

But the relationship between Apple and Bromwich quickly spiraled downward.

In November, Apple complained Bromwich had aggressively sought to interview top executives, even though his mandate called for him to assess the company's antitrust policies 90 days after his appointment.

Apple also cited Bromwich's proposed hourly payment rate of $1,100. Those fees, Apple argued, provided Bromwich incentive to run "as broad and intrusive investigation as possible."

In the letter on Tuesday, Apple's lawyer repeated those same complaints.

A spokeswoman for Bromwich declined to comment.

The case is U.S. v Apple Inc et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, 12-2826.

(Reporting by Andrew Longstreth; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell)

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