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Pearson agrees $75 million settlement in U.S. e-books case

By Kate Holton and Nate Raymond

LONDON/NEW YORK (Reuters) - British publisher Pearson's Penguin unit said on Wednesday it would pay $75 million in damages plus costs to U.S. states and consumers as part of an agreement over alleged price-fixing in the e-book market.

Pearson, which will take an extra provision on its accounts this year after setting aside $40 million in 2012, had already reached an agreement with the U.S. Justice Department in the e-book pricing case.

The latest deal resolves claims by the attorneys general of 33 states, as well as with consumers who had filed a class-action lawsuit against the British publisher. The settlement is subject to approval by U.S. District Judge Denise Cote in New York.

"This proposed settlement is a powerful demonstration of what is possible when federal, state and private class antitrust enforcement lawyers work together," said Steve Berman, a lawyer for the plaintiffs at Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro.

The Justice Department last year accused Apple and five publishers of colluding on prices as part of an effort to fight online retailer Amazon.com Inc's dominance of the e-book market. Apple has not settled and is scheduled to face the U.S. Justice Department in a trial which is scheduled to start on June 3.

Penguin said it had also committed to the state attorneys to abide by the terms agreed in the settlement with the Department of Justice.

Pearson has previously said that it did not believe it had done anything wrong with its e-book pricing but had agreed to settle so that it could move ahead with the merger of Penguin with Random House, which it announced last October.

The case is In Re: Electronic Books Antitrust Litigation, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 11-02293.

(Editing by David Goodman and Greg Mahlich)

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