Apple, Ebooks, Justice, injustice, Partiality, Impartiality and Consulting Fees
We live in interesting times. The ebook price fixing case (U.S. vs Apple) continues to bring news that can only be considered bizarre. This is a case in which the Judge, Denise Cote, declared her intention to find Apple guilty before the trial began, an unusual move no matter what your perspective. And, true to her word, she did so, failing to take into account any evidence contrary to her preconceived decision (Ebook prices actually dropped in the agency model according to Digital Book World (http://www.teleread.com/ebooks/average-price-of-best-selling-e-books-on-the-decline/).
But this strange story is just keeps getting stranger. On top of the pre-judged trial, Jude Cote decided a monitor must be appointed to insure Apple comply with the court ordered penalties. This monitor must be appointed by her, of course, and it was no surprise to anyone familiar with the judge that she appointed someone well known to her, Michael Bromwich to the role.
Without a modicum of impartiality, the trial and post trial actions of the court continue. Interested observers from the publishing world, the tech world, the financial community and plain old intelligent people have called for reason. The Wall Street Journal suggested Mr. Bromwich’s appointment was inappropriate, possibly nepotistic. He has neither the qualifications nor the impartiality to do the job. Indeed, his first two weeks of work resulted in billing to Apple for his ‘services’ the amount of $138,432.00, almost $14,000.00 per day. The explanation…
Here is an excerpt of a Bloomberg story:
Mr. Bromwich has proposed an hourly rate for himself of $1,100. And because he lacks any antitrust experience, Mr. Bromwich has also retained the law firm Fried Frank to assist him, whose partner’s hourly rate is $1,025. Mr. Bromwich has made no attempt to justify why his lack of any substantive experience with the matter at issue justifies hiring another law firm with a four-digit billing rate.
CNN Money goes further:
Even worse, from Apple’s point of view, Judge Cote issued an order last week that not only backed Bromwich in his disputes with Apple, but handed him extra investigative powers. These include license to interview Apple execs without a lawyer present, to tell the judge in private what he’s learned, to preserve any documents he comes across related to his duties and to make them public when, in his view, doing so serves “the interest of justice.”
If Apple were the evil, vindictive company Judge Cote seems to think they are, they could simply shutter the Apple ebook store and leave the monopoly on ebooks to Amazon, an outcome Judge Cote seems to favor, but one that would not favor ebook readers in any way. I don’t think Apple’s bottom line would be too adversely affected by the move and it would leave Mr. Bromwich little to do for his projected annual billing of $3,599,232.00.