Thu, Dec 29, 2011 - Page 11 News List

Top LCD makers agree to pay large fines in US

ANTITRUST:The world’s biggest and best-known display makers, including Taiwan-based Chimei Innolux, agreed to pay fines for fixing the prices of LCDs for seven years

Reuters, SAN FRANCISCO

Samsung Electronics Co, Sharp Corp and five other makers of liquid crystal displays agreed to pay more than US$553 million to settle consumer and US state regulatory claims that they conspired to fix prices for LCD panels in televisions, notebook computers and monitors.

The settlement is the latest arising from lawsuits alleging the creation of an international cartel designed to illegally inflate prices and stifle competition in LCD panels between 1999 and 2006, affecting billions of US dollars of US commerce.

In December 2006, authorities in Japan, South Korea, the EU and the US revealed a probe into alleged anti-competitive activity among LCD panel manufacturers. Many companies and executives have since pleaded guilty to criminal antitrust violations and paid more than US$890 million in fines.

The latest payout includes US$538.6 million to resolve claims by “indirect” purchasers that bought televisions and computers with thin film transistor LCDs, as well as claims by eight US states: Arkansas, California, Florida, Michigan, Missouri, New York, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

It also includes payments of more than US$14.7 million by five of the companies to settle civil fine and penalty law claims by the states, the office of New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said.

“This price-fixing scheme manipulated the playing field for businesses that abide by the rules, and left consumers to pay artificially higher costs for televisions, computers and other electronics,” Schneiderman said in a statement on Tuesday.

The accord calls for Samsung to pay US$240 million, Sharp US$115.5 million and Taiwan-based Chimei Innolux Corp (奇美電子) US$110.3 million, settlement papers filed on Friday with the US District Court in San Francisco show.

Hitachi Displays Ltd will pay US$39 million, HannStar Display Corp (瀚宇彩晶) US$25.7 million; Chunghwa Picture Tubes Ltd (中華映管) will pay US$5.3 million and Epson Imaging Devices Corp US$2.9 million, the court documents show.

The settling companies also agreed to establish antitrust compliance programs and to help prosecute other defendants.

Court approval is required and the settling companies continue to dispute the allegations, the court documents show.

The state penalties include US$6 million to be paid by Sharp, US$5.7 million by Chimei and smaller amounts by Epson, HannStar and Hitachi, a spokeswoman for Schneiderman said.

Other defendants have yet to settle, including Taiwan-based AU Optronics Corp (友達光電), one of the largest LCD panel manufacturers; South Korea’s LG Display Co and Toshiba Corp.

An AU Optronics spokeswoman did not immediately respond to an e-mailed request for a comment.

The accord follows a settlement earlier this month by eight companies, including Samsung and Sharp, to pay US$388 million to settle litigation by direct purchasers of the LCD panels.

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