The Wall Street Journal reports hearing from “people familiar with the situation” that the first three publishers to settle—Hachette, Simon & Schuster, and News Corp’s own HarperCollins—have received letters of inquiry from the Department of Justice, seeking information about “any recent pricing discussions they may have had with others in the industry.”

The rest of the article is basically background reminding folks of the price-fixing lawsuit the publishers settled, and the trouble Amazon is having with Hachette. There’s really not a lot on which to speculate. It does seem clear, though, that given that the publishers are approaching the time they can make new contracts, the Department of Justice wants to make sure they’re not slipping back into old habits.

It’s unclear whether the DoJ actually does think (or have evidence) there’s a new conspiracy, or just wants to send the publishers a pointed reminder to keep on walking the straight and narrow—especially right now while one of them is in the midst of a challenging negotiation with Amazon. Either way, it’s a potent reminder that the DoJ is still watching. And I’m glad it is.


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