U.S. appeals court upholds Apple e-book settlement

A federal appeals court on Wednesday upheld Apple’s $450 million settlement of claims that it harmed consumers by conspiring with five publishers to raise e-book prices.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit in New York City rejected a challenge by e-books purchaser John Bradley to the fairness, reasonableness and adequacy of Apple’s class-action antitrust settlement with consumers and 33 state attorneys general.

U.S. District Judge Denise Cote in Manhattan had approved the settlement in November 2014. Apple agreed to the accord after Cote in July 2013 found it liable for having played a “central role” in a conspiracy with the publishers to eliminate retail price competition and undercut market leader’s dominance.

The alleged conspiracy caused some e-book prices to rise to $12.99 or $14.99 from Amazon’s $9.99 price, according to the Justice Department. Amazon chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos owns The Washington Post.

The 2nd Circuit later upheld Cote’s liability finding.

Apple has appealed that finding to the U.S. Supreme Court, saying it could harm competition and the economy. The court is expected to decide in its current term whether to hear Apple’s appeal.

— Reuters

SEC fines Deutsche analyst over ‘Buy’ rating of Big Lots

The Securities and Exchange Commission fined and suspended a former Deutsche Bank research analyst for issuing a “Buy” rating on a stock that contradicted his personal view, a violation of SEC rules.

Charles P. Grom agreed to a fine of $100,000 and a one-year suspension from the securities industry. He neither admitted nor denied the SEC’s findings.

The SEC said in a release that Grom left a meeting with Big Lots executives on March 28, 2012, concerned with “what he believed to be cautious comments by the Big Lots executives.” The SEC said that after that meeting Grom communicated with several hedge fund clients about Big Lots, and four of them sold all of their stock in the discount retailer.

The next day, Grom issued a report on Big Lots with a “Buy” rating.

The SEC said that during a conference call among Deutsche Bank employees within hours of his report, Grom explained that he didn’t downgrade Big Lots because he wanted to maintain his relationship with the company.

— Associated Press

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