Apple Inc faces opposition from the US in its bid to block an antitrust monitor appointed in an electronic books price-fixing case from interviewing top executives and directors, including chief executive officer Tim Cook and board member Al Gore.
The government said the monitor, former US Department of Justice inspector-general Michael Bromwich, should be allowed to interview the company’s leaders, as such activities are “standard procedure in monitorships,” according to a filing on Monday in Manhattan federal court.
Bromwich was appointed in October by US District Judge Denise Cote to evaluate Apple’s antitrust compliance policies.
The Cupertino, California-based technology company said in court papers filed in November that the monitor was operating in an “unfettered an inappropriate manner” and was overstepping his authority by pressing for immediate interviews with senior management.
“Stripped of its blustery rhetoric and personal attacks, Apple’s motion is about its desire to shield its highest-level executives and board members from the perceived inconvenience of having to sit for these interviews,” Justice Department lawyers said in papers filed on Monday.
Apple’s claim that Bromwich’s request would result in loss of market share growth at the world’s biggest technology company is “wholly unbelievable,” the US lawyers said.
In July, Cote found that Apple played a “central role” in facilitating an antitrust conspiracy with book publishers to fix prices of electronic books. The company has appealed her findings.
In a separate filing on Monday, Bromwich said that the company has provided him only with limited access to personnel during his investigation.
When he made initial inquiries about interviewing senior leaders, one board member told him that the executives and directors were “very busy, and that we would see a ‘lot of anger,’ about the case still existed within the company,” Bromwich said in his filing.
During the two months since his appointment, Bromwich said he has been permitted to interview only 11 people at the company, seven of whom were lawyers instead of businesspeople.
The monitor said he was given access to only one member of Apple’s board of directors and one executive.
Interviews took place at an off-site location rather than at the company’s headquarters, he said.