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Apple’s $450 mn e-book settlement wins court nod

The publishers are Lagardere SCA's Hachette Book Group, News Corp's HarperCollins Publishers, Penguin Group, CBS Corp's Simon.

Apple on Friday won preliminary court approval for its $450 million settlement of claims it harmed consumers by conspiring with five publishers to raise e-book prices.

In approving the accord, US District Judge Denise Cote in Manhattan overcame concerns she had expressed over a settlement provision allowing Apple to pay just $70 million if related litigation were to drag out.

Apple has been appealing Cote’s July 2013 finding, in a case brought by the US Department of Justice, that it violated antitrust laws for colluding with the publishers to drive up e-book prices and impede rivals such as Amazon.com.

In June, Apple agreed to settle related class-action litigation brought on behalf of consumers and 33 US states.

That accord calls for Apple to pay $400 million to consumers and $50 million to lawyers if the federal appeals court in New York upholds Cote’s findings, and nothing if the Cupertino, California-based company wins its appeal.

But if the appeals court overturns Cote and returns the case to her, perhaps for a new trial, Apple will owe $50 million to consumers and $20 million to lawyers.

The publishers are Lagardere SCA’s Hachette Book Group, News Corp’s HarperCollins Publishers, Penguin Group, CBS Corp’s Simon & Schuster and Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck GmbH’s Macmillan. They previously agreed to pay $166 million to consumers.

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