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The last of the five publishers sued for conspiring with Apple Inc. to fix the prices of electronic books has agreed to pay $75 million to settle cases brought by consumers and attorneys general in 33 states.

Penguin Group (USA) Inc., based in New York, reached the settlement on Wednesday to resolve allegations it artificially raised the prices of e-books in violation of U.S. antitrust laws.

The agreement, which must be approved by U.S. District Judge Denise Cote in New York, would resolve a consolidated class action brought by consumers in 2011. Last year, the plaintiffs, along with the 33 attorneys general and the U.S. Justice Department, reached a $69 million settlement with three other publishers: Hachette Book Group (USA), HarperCollins Publishers LLC and Simon & Schuster Inc.

All but one of the 17 remaining state attorneys general signed onto the deal. On February 8, consumers obtained a $20 million deal with Holtzbrinck Publishers LLC, which does business as Macmillan. That deal also resolved claims by the 33 attorneys general and the Justice Department.

Under those agreements, the publishers are not permitted to continue similar deals with Apple and other retailers for two years.

"This has been a very unique case against the publishers and Apple," said Jeff Friedman, a partner at Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro in San Francisco. "It’s been extraordinarily hotly contested and we are very, very happy about the monetary relief thus far. It’s a product of unprecedented coordination between federal, state and private antitrust lawyers."

A request for comment was not returned by Penguin Group (USA), the U.S. subsidiary of The Penguin Group, itself a division of Pearson PLC, which is based in London. Penguin’s attorney, Daniel McInnis, a partner in the Washington office of Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld, did not return a call for comment.

On December 18, the Justice Department settled with Penguin.

Cote has granted final approval to the first settlement with the three publishers and on May 17 issued final judgment as to Penguin’s deal with the Justice Department.

Apple, the only remaining defendant in the litigation, faces a June 3 bench trial in the litigation brought by the 33 attorneys general and the Department of Justice. The consumer class action is scheduled to go to trial later, Friedman said.

Contact Amanda Bronstad at abronstad@alm.com.
 

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