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 Amazon.com’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.
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
● Comcast’s Fandango bought Flixster and Rotten Tomatoes from Warner Bros., uniting the biggest online ticket seller with popular outlets for finding films and reading reviews. Warner Bros., a unit of Time Warner, will obtain a minority stake in Fandango and become a strategic partner, according to a statement Wednesday. Other terms weren’t disclosed. Rotten Tomatoes rates movies and TV shows based on the percentage of positive professional reviews. Flixster is a website and app for discovering movies. The acquisitions by Fandango will help the company expand in the movie-ticketing business while creating a digital network for entertainment information.
● Toyota recalled more than 1.1 million small SUVs in the United States because the seat belts might fail in a crash. The recall covers RAV4 SUVS from the 2006 through 2012 model years, as well as the RAV4 electric vehicle from 2012 through 2014. Toyota said it is possible that the belts in both second-row outside seats could come in contact with the metal seat-cushion frame in a severe frontal crash. If that happens, the belts could be cut and would not restrain passengers. Toyota said it will add plastic covers to the seat cushion frame at no cost to owners.
● U.S. producer prices edged up slightly in January as the biggest rise in food costs in eight months offset a further decline in energy prices, the Labor Department said Wednesday morning. The Producer Price Index rose 0.1 percent in January after having fallen 0.2 percent in December. Over the past year, the PPI, which measures inflation pressures before they reach the consumer, is down 0.2 percent. Core inflation, which excludes energy and food, rose 0.4 percent in January, the biggest one-month jump in 15 months.
● Housing starts slipped 3.8 percent in January to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.1 million homes, the Commerce Department said Wednesday. A sharp 12.8 percent decline in construction in the Midwest and a 3.7 percent dip in the Northeast propelled the broader decrease, with construction also falling in the South. It was nearly unchanged in the West. The setback occurs after months of improvement for the real estate market. Construction firms still see further room for growth. Building permits came in at an annual rate of 1.2 million in January, a slight 0.2 percent dip from December but a 13.5 percent increase from a year ago.
● Yahoo said Wednesday that it would shut down its digital magazines as part of a plan to simplify its business. The company’s digital magazines to be discontinued include those that cover food, parenting, health, travel and real estate, it said in a blog post. The company said earlier this month it would consider “strategic alternatives” for its core Internet business and cut about 15 percent of its workforce.
— From news services
● 8:30 a.m.: Labor Department releases weekly jobless claims.
● 10 a.m.: Freddie Mac releases weekly mortgage rates.
● Earnings: Freddie Mac, Walmart.
— From news services