A federal judge in New York has signed off on a $450 million e-books antitrust settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). U.S. District Judge Denise Cote found that further discussions with class attorneys satisfied her concerns about a provision of the settlement that could result in Apple paying much less money depending on the outcome of an appeal. The settlement avoids the need for second trial over Apple’s financial liability stemming from violations of U.S. antitrust law relating to the launch of its iBooks store in 2010.
Judge Cote had expressed reservations over a provision that allowed Apple to pay $50 million to consumers and $20 million to lawyers if her 2013 decision on Apple’s antitrust liability is vacated or reversed and remanded back to her. Judge Cote wrote:
These provisions … reduce the likelihood of the remand scenario, as well as the likelihood of confusion — and future litigation — concerning whether the remand scenario has been triggered. Plaintiffs emphasize that they strongly believe that the remand scenario is unlikely to occur.
Judge Cote was asked by the Plaintiffs to consider the total payments e-books customers and the states would receive as a result of prior settlement with major U.S. publishers when reviewing the Apple settlement. Those settlements with the publishers were worth a combined $166 million, pushing the potential recovery to $616 million if Apple ends up paying the full value of the settlement.
In June, Apple appealed Judge Cote’s July 2013 ruling that the company had orchestrated the plot in violation of the Sherman Act. Judge Cote also issued an injunction that forced Apple to renegotiate all of its e-book distribution deals with the companies and imposed a host of other requirements.
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