March 14, 2013

Apple head Tim Cook forced to testify in DOJ case


Tim Cook’s going give ’em the old skeptical squint.

U.S. District Judge Denise Cote has ruled that Tim Cook will have to testify in the Justice Department case against Apple over allegations of e-book price-fixing. An article by Adi Robertson in The Verge on this new development states that:

Apple attempted to block Cook’s deposition on the grounds that it wasn’t necessary since 11 other executives had already testified. The court, however, determined that he likely had information about both Apple’s entry into the ebook market and relevant conversations with Steve Jobs. Cote said that the impossibility of requiring Jobs himself to testify justified asking other high-level executives to help fill the gap. Cook, who stepped up as CEO in 2011, is not personally implicated in helping to organize the alleged price-fixing: the Justice Department has suggested that iTunes head Eddy Cue helped manage publisher meetings…

Forming part of the 8 million pages of documents produced by the suit so far are previously redacted email records between Jobs and Cue that show Jobs stepping in during the negotiations with publishers to personally make the case for the agency model.

Apple had argued that Cook had “no unique knowledge about Apple’s decision to enter the e-books market” and that he “recalls no relevant ‘private conversations’ with Mr. Jobs.” Furthermore, none of the ample testimony given so far indicates that Cook had any role in the e-book pricing discussions (see this PDF of Apple’s letter).

In the Reuters report on the ruling, Cote was said to have cited Job’s death as the key reason for the deposition, but it seems more likely that this is, as Orin Snyder, a lawyer for Apple’s side, put it, “a fishing expedition.” And that the Justice Department is hoping that, once on the stand, Cook will disclose information that can be used to strengthen the government’s case, whether or not it directly implicates Cook. Meanwhile, Eddy Cue is being deposed this week, in a two-day hearing. If there’s any further clarification to come in this case, my bets are on Cue.

The trial is scheduled to begin in June.



Sal Robinson is an editor at Melville House. She's also the co-founder of the Bridge Series, a reading series focused on translation.