NEW YORK, N.Y. - A court-appointed monitor evaluating Apple's antitrust policies can resume his work but must adhere to the strict limits on his duties spelled out by the judge who appointed him, a federal appeals panel said on Monday.
A three-judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan issued the order after hearing oral arguments last week on Apple Inc.'s request that the monitor's work be suspended until the appeals court decides whether it was proper to appoint him. That ruling could be months away.
The order allows the monitor, Washington lawyer Michael Bromwich, to resume his duties after they were suspended for several weeks while the appeals court considered whether to grant Apple's request temporarily.
A Manhattan judge appointed the monitor in the fall for two years after concluding Apple colluded with book publishers in 2010 to raise electronic book prices.
Apple, based in Cupertino, Calif., declined to comment on the restoration of Bromwich's work.
The federal government was pleased with the court's decision, Department of Justice spokeswoman Gina Talamona said.
"Today's ruling makes abundantly clear that Apple must now co-operate with the court-appointed monitor," she said in a statement. "The appellate court's ruling reaffirms the department's and district court's decision that a monitor is necessary to oversee Apple's antitrust compliance policies, procedures and training to help ensure that Apple does not engage in future price fixing and that U.S. consumers never have to pay the price of their illegal conduct again."
The appeals court wrote that it agreed with a narrow interpretation of U.S. District Judge Denise Cote's description of Bromwich's duties, meaning Bromwich should be limited to evaluating whether an antitrust compliance program is adequate, not whether Apple employees and management were complying with antitrust laws.
"The monitor was empowered to demand only documents relevant to his authorized responsibility as so defined, and to interview Apple directors, officers and employees only on subjects relevant to that responsibility," the 2nd Circuit panel noted.
In court papers, Apple has argued that Bromwich launched a "broad and amorphous inquisition" that was interfering with its business operations and imposing substantial and rapidly escalating costs on it.
Government lawyers said in court papers that Apple had let the monitor conduct only 13 hours of interviews with 11 people, seven of whom are lawyers, and had provided the monitor with only 303 pages of documents.