The Department of Justice says Apple no longer needs an antitrust monitor

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Apple, you may recall, raised the ire of the Department of Justice several years ago when it colluded with publishers to prop up the price of digital books. The DoJ filed a lawsuit against the iPhone maker, won, and persuaded the court to approve a monitor, Michael Bromwich, to ensure that Apple kept future antitrust shenanigans to a minimum. But after nearly two years of oversight, the government’s convinced the effort has successfully run its course.

In a joint letter to U.S. District Judge Denise Cote, the federal judge who presided over the case against Apple in 2013, the Department of Justice said it was satisfied that the company had “implemented meaningful antitrust policies, procedures, and training programs that were obviously lacking at the time Apple participated in and facilitate the horizontal price-fixing conspiracy found by this court.”

Apple, for its part, said it was committed to keeping up a “comprehensive, engaging, and effective antitrust compliance” program. Specifically, the company said it’s abandoned all designs of supplanting the ebook market’s wholesale model with an agency model. (In 2012, Apple’s conspiratorial price fixing led to an industrywide rise in ebook pricing — in some cases as high as 20 percent.)

The Justice Department’s decision comes despite Apple’s ofttimes combative resistance to the monitor. The company petitioned the US Court of Appeals in 2013 to have Bromwich removed from its Cupertino headquarters because of what Apple called a pattern of “overreach”: the electronics giant complained that Bromwich improperly sought interviews with high-ranking executives, requested access to documents “beyond the scope of his duties,” and posted “excessive bills.” The company said that cumulatively, Bromwich’s actions caused “irreparably harm,” an argument a three-judge panel rejected in February of last year.

Bromwich, meanwhile, complained of pushback and generally unhelpful management. The Justice Department said Apple “never embraced a cooperative working relationship with the monitor,” a contention that Apple didn’t dispute. But the company said it made every effort to implement changes that Bromwich suggested.

The monitor’s removal may bookend the ebook price fixing saga as far as the Justice Department is concerned, but Apple’s not willing to let the government have its way without a fight. After losing an appeal earlier this summer, the company said it would petition the Supreme Court to have the ruling against it overturned.

“We are disappointed the Court does not recognize the innovation and choice of the iBooks Store brought for customers,” an Apple spokesperson said. “While we want to put this behind us, but the case is about principles and values.”

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