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Antitrust Monitor Calls|Apple Its ‘Own Worst Enemy’

(CN) - While Apple has a "positive story to tell," the company's "substantial progress" in making up for its e-book price-hiking conspiracy has been marred by its resistance to oversight, the attorney appointed to oversee such compliance told a federal judge Tuesday.

Apple was the lone e-book retailer to abjure a settlement after the U.S. Department of Justice and 33 states brought antitrust claims in 2012 against it Simon & Schuster, Macmillan, Penguin, Hachette and HarperCollins.

After a trial, U.S. District Judge Denise Cote found Apple culpable under the Sherman Act in 2013 for conspiring with the five publishers to fix the retail prices of newly released and bestselling e-books, taking over the market Amazon used to dominate.

Michael Bromwich, the head of a Washington-based consulting firm whom Cote appointed to monitor Apple's compliance released his fourth semi-annual report on the case Tuesday.

Though Bromwich praised Apple for cleaning up shop, he also called the company its "own worst enemy" for stonewalling his probes.

Apple's antitrust compliance program is "substantially stronger than it was when the monitorship began," the 144-page report says.

"We did, however, continue to experience difficulties in obtaining information we needed to assess the program," Bromwich added. "Apple continued to object to our requests for information about aspects of its antitrust compliance efforts, sometimes on the ground that the information we sought was privileged and sometimes on the ground that the requests exceeded the scope of our duties under the final judgment."

Rejecting certain requests for "no good reason," Apple has even hid information showing it has "a positive story to tell about the attention it paid to antitrust considerations in connection with Apple Music."

Bromwich said this work "appears to reflect well on its ET, its board, its lawyers, and its business personnel."

Reports of the icy relations between Apple and Bromwich cropped up shortly after the verdict.

Bromwich has long complained about stonewalling from Apple's executives.

Apple, in turn, assailed Bromwich as biased and too cozy with the Department of Justice, which is a party to the case. Bromwich also billed a $1,265-per-hour fee, plus $1,025 per hour for an antitrust lawyer on his team - figures the company found excessive.

Although Apple failed twice to replace Bromwich, a dissenting judge from the Second Circuit expressed some sympathy with the company's gripes, saying that the court-ordered monitoring arrangement "blurs the lines of the adversary system does no good for the reputation of the courts."

Apple's attorneys did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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