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Prominent attorney named as monitor in Apple e-books case

Michael Bromwich, director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, testifies before the Senate Interior Approp
Michael Bromwich, director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, testifies before the Senate Interior Approp

By Joseph Ax

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Michael Bromwich, a high-profile attorney who recently served as the top U.S. offshore drilling watchdog, has been appointed to monitor Apple Inc's antitrust compliance following a court ruling that the world's largest technology company had conspired to fix e-book prices.

Bromwich will oversee Apple's antitrust policies and procedures for two years under the order issued by U.S. District Judge Denise Cote in Manhattan on Wednesday. Bernard Nigro, the chair of the antitrust department at the law firm Fried Frank, was appointed to assist Bromwich in his duties.

Judge Cote ruled on the case in July and in September imposed restrictions on Apple such as requiring an external monitor.

Bromwich's practice at the law firm Goodwin Procter in Washington, D.C., is focused on internal investigations, compliance and monitoring.

Bromwich was one of two candidates proposed by the Justice Department.

A former federal prosecutor in New York, Bromwich was part of the government's trial team against Oliver North, the former Marine Corps lieutenant colonel who was a central figure in the Iran-Contra affair. In the 1990s, Bromwich served as inspector general for the Justice Department.

President Obama appointed Bromwich to head the U.S. offshore drilling regulator in the wake of the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, after the agency came under fire for failing to adequately monitor oil and gas development.

In addition to his work as a litigator, Bromwich also runs his own strategic consulting firm, the Bromwich Group.

"I am deeply honored to have been selected by the court to serve as the monitor in this matter," Bromwich said in a brief statement.

An Apple spokesman said the company had no immediate comment on the appointment.

Cote ruled in July that Apple was liable for conspiring with five publishers to raise e-book prices above those established by the dominant retailer in the market, Amazon.com. The publishers have all settled with regulators.

Her injunction setting limits on the types of agreements Apple could sign with publishers, as well as a compliance monitor, was issued September 6.

Apple is appealing her ruling and has denied that it engaged in price-fixing.

The case is U.S. v. Apple Inc et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 12-02826.

(Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Richard Chang)

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