Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) was found guilty in a trial on e-book price fixing earlier this year, and now the company is having to deal with the fallout from that. However, Judge Denise Cote, who ruled over the case, is being accused of not being impartial and, in fact, trying to make things even more difficult for Apple than they already are on this matter.
Was Judge Cote truly impartial to Apple?
An editorial posted on The Wall Street Journal calls Judge Cote “an abusive judge” and states that she appointed her friend to oversee antitrust issues at Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL). As part of the ruling against Apple, the company was forced to pay for a special prosecutor to oversee the investigation into antitrust issues. That prosecutor is none other than Michael Bromwich, who is portrayed in the article as being ruthless in his efforts to practically take Apple apart piece by piece.
In the case, Apple was accused of entering the e-book market with a goal of inflating e-book prices. According to The Wall Street Journal, however, Apple’s entry into the market lowered the prices of e-books while increasing competition and choices for consumers.
Special prosecutor goes all-out on Apple?
The editorial goes on to say Bromwich is going far beyond what his duties should be as special prosecutor on this matter. Judge Cote ordered Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) to overhaul its compliance and training for antitrust matters by Jan. 14. Then in November, Bromwich reportedly started demanding interviews with every one of Apple’s top executives and board members.
Apple apparently tried to get him to speak just with workers who actually deal with antitrust issues, but the editorial states that Bromwich “had a tantrum,” making “blanket requests for proprietary documents beyond his mandate” and bypassing in-house counsel by writing directly to members of the company’s board and its executives, demanding meetings without their lawyers being present.
Then before Thanksgiving, Judge Cote reportedly proposed that she amend her injunction against Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) to give him even more powers than he already has. She also wanted him to start reporting to her about everything he finds without Apple representatives being there during his reports.
An unconstitutional arrangement?
The editorial calls this arrangement “flatly unconstitutional” and notes that judges aren’t supposed to be allowed to appoint their own people to run investigations and “annex such activities reserved for the executive branch.” It also states that Bromwich “has rewritten his job description to investigate Apple all over again” rather than simply monitoring it to make sure it complies with the court judgment during the appeals process.
The editorial also paints a grim picture of Bromwich’s ability to even do the job to which Cote appointed him, saying he “was forced to hire the law firm Fried Frank to make up for his lack of expertise” in antitrust issues. It calls for Cote to be removed from the case. It certainly raises some interesting questions which Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) will undoubtedly bring up in court during the appeal, if there is anything really to them. We don’t know the motivation of the writer here, so we aren’t presented with the other side of the story, although it makes this whole process sound very questionable indeed.