Three of the largest book publishers will shell out $69 million to settle antitrust claims by state attorneys general that they conspired to keep e-book prices artificially high. The preliminary settlement agreement was filed on Aug. 29 in Manhattan federal court by the publishers—Hachette Book Group Inc., HarperCollins Publishers and Simon & Schuster Inc.—and the A.G.s of 49 states (all but Minnesota) and the District of Columbia. The states filed their complaint on the same day.
According to a statement from the Connecticut attorney general’s office, which led the investigation along with the U.S. Department of Justice antitrust division and the Texas A.G.’s office, the publishers will reimburse customers who purchased e-books from them and two non-settling publishing companies (The Penguin Group and MacMillan) between April 1, 2010, and May 21, 2012. Additionally, the publishers will pay $7.5 million to the states for fees and costs. Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom represented HarperCollins; Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer represented Hachette; and Proskauer Rose represented Simon & Schuster.
The settling and non-settling publishers, which comprise five of the six largest book publishers in the United States, have been embroiled in several high-profile antitrust suits in which they’ve been accused of colluding with Apple Inc. to keep prices of e-books high. In April, Hachette, HarperCollins, and Simon & Schuster settled a massive federal antitrust case accusing them of the same behavior (the federal case remains open against the non-settling publishers and Apple). Also, all five publishers and Apple still face a consumer antitrust class action in the Southern District of New York.