Following a swift, 15-minute fairness hearing, Judge Denise Cote quickly approved a $70-million plus settlement with 54 states (all but Minnesota) and U.S. territories to settle price-fixing charges. The approval clears the way for consumers to soon begin receiving credits under a deal reached last year. With a handful of a lawyers present representing the states and the U.S. Department of Justice, as well as Apple and the lawyers from the five publishers accused of colluding with Apple to inflate e-book prices (Hachette, HarperCollins, Penguin, S&S, and now Macmillan), Cote deemed the settlement and the settlement amount “utterly fair and reasonable,” and signed the final order from the bench.
In making her ruling, Cote applauded the work of attorneys, noting that a case of this nature would take at least two years to litigate, making this the kind of case “courts are happy to see settled.” She noted that the final settlement could affect as many as 22 million consumers, with 24 million titles falling into “the category” of New York Times bestsellers, and another 120 million books eligible for smaller refunds.
For a public fairness hearing (and for the outcry over there being no hearing on the DoJ settlement), no public attended the hearing. In addition to three reporters, only Macmillan CEO John Sargent was in attendance (who politely declined any further comment on the settlement). In her statements, however, Cote said the settlement was popular—with only 100 people opting out, and just four objections that didn’t even pertain to the settlement terms. Cote said the settlement amount seemed reasonable, equating to about half the damages that might be at stake at trial.
Apple, meanwhile, is continuing to fight, and Cote noted that the June trial is on schedule, with the parties well along in the discovery process. Also, a consumer class action suit remains.