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Judge Puts the Brakes on Apple's Antitrust Monitor

A temporary reprieve in an increasingly contentious battle.

Adam Tow / Re/code

Apple has won a brief respite from the court-appointed antitrust compliance monitor it claims is crawling unnecessarily deeply into its business.

An appellate judge on Tuesday temporarily stayed monitor Michael Bromwich’s oversight of Apple until a federal appeals panel can decide whether or not the stay should be kept in place while the company pursues a formal appeal to oust him.

The temporary stay comes just days after U.S. District Judge Denise Cote rejected Apple’s request to remove Bromwich, the Washington attorney she appointed to oversee the company’s compliance with antitrust law after finding it liable for conspiring with major publishers to raise e-book prices. “If anything, Apple’s reaction to the existence of a monitorship underscores the wisdom of its imposition,” Cote wrote, dismissing the company’s allegations that rather than an impartial monitor, Bromwich is behaving “like an FBI agent.”

“Whereas this Court intended ‘to rest as lightly as possible on the way Apple runs its business,’ Mr. Bromwich thinks he has a license to ‘crawl into [the] company,’ and as a result continues to demand that Apple ‘take down barriers’ to his access so he can set up shop in Apple’s boardroom and executive offices in Cupertino for two years in order to monitor and change the corporate culture,” Apple said in a Jan. 8 filing demanding Bromwich’s removal.

Now, a federal appeals panel will determine whose argument has more merit.

So a small victory for Apple in its effort to drop the hammer on what it describes as Bromwich’s “roaming” investigation. But how long of a reprieve? The stay of Bromwich’s oversight will stand only until Apple’s request for a permanent stay can be heard. And the appellate judge says that should happen “as soon as possible.”

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