Apple balks at $138,000 bill from court-appointed ebook watchdog, files complaint

Apple iBooks Lawsuit Tim Cook

Back in July, a court ruled Apple had conspired to fix ebook prices, and part of its punishment was to have an appointed watchdog come in and check it followed antitrust rules. The man put in charge of the operating was one Michael Bromwich, an attorney with experience in the field, having kept an eye on offshore drilling platforms after the Gulf of Mexico spill in 2010.

However, Apple isn’t pleased with Michael Bromwich, and has filed a complaint with the courts. Apple’s problem comes from having to pay Bromwich a fee for the pleasure of his company, a figure it describes as, “extraordinary,” and higher than any lawyer has ever demanded from the firm.

So, what charge has made the world’s most valuable technology firm balk? According to the filing, Bromwich charges $1,100 per hour, plus a 15 percent administration fee, and another $1,000 for his legal support team. In the first two weeks of his appointment, Bromwich presented a bill for $138,432 to Apple. According to this report, that’s what a federal judge earns in nine months. Seeing as Bromwich is overseeing Apple’s policies and procedures for two years, if these bills continue, Apple will end up paying more than $7 million for his services.

Apple argues that as Bromwich was appointed by the judge, he’s the only game in town, and appears to be taking full advantage of the fact in his fees. As Apple can’t replace Bromwich, its only recourse is to file a complaint with the court. In addition to having an issue over fees, Apple’s also unhappy with his request to interview various top executives in the company, including Tim Cook and Jony Ive. These chats would take place without legal representation, and the conversations relayed back to Judge Denise Cote, who ruled on the case.

The filing says Bromwich is, “Operating in an unfettered and inappropriate manner,” to which the attorney responded he has seen, “Little reciprocity and instead a consistent pattern of delay, unresponsiveness and lack of cooperation,” from the firm. He’s due to visit Apple this week, and we doubt it’ll be a very pleasant occasion for anyone involved.

Apple’s complaint joins its appeal against the original decision, and it denies any involvement in price fixing.

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