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Macmillan settles DOJ e-book price-fixing case

8:48 AM, Feb 9, 2013   |    comments
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USA TODAY - Macmillan reached a settlement Friday in the lawsuit filed last April by the Department of Justice against five book publishers and Apple.

Apple remains the sole defendant in Justice's case, which alleges the device maker and major book publishers conspired to eliminate competition their e-book prices. The trial is set to begin in June.

"Macmillan has agreed to immediately allow retailers to lower the prices consumers pay for Macmillan's e-books," Jamillia Ferris, chief of Justice's antitrust division, said in a statement Friday.

With competition from Amazon.com, which typically sold e-books at $10 a piece, the publishers fixed prices at "$12.99, $14.99 or more for the most sought after e-books," the statement said.

John Sargent, Macmillan's CEO, said Friday the company couldn't afford to continue as the sole publisher defendant in the case. Macmillan feared potential damages of the settling publishers if it had continued the case and lost in court, Sargent says. Macmillan's publishing units include Farrar, Straus and Giroux and St. Martin's Press,

Three of the publishers -- Hachette, HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster -- settled out of court in 2012. Penguin agreed to settle in December, and a public comment period on its settlement with the feds ends March 5.

In a letter from Macmillan's Sargent Friday, he wrote: "We settled because the potential penalties became too high to risk even the possibility of an unfavorable outcome. I had an old-fashioned belief that you should not settle if you have done no wrong. As it turns out, that is indeed old-fashioned. Our company is not large enough to risk a worst-case judgment."

Macmillan also has agreed to immediately lift restrictions on retailers' discounts and other promotions and will be prohibited from new agreements with similar restrictions until December 2014, according to the terms of the settlement.

(Copyright © 2013 USA TODAY)

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