AU Optronics Corp (AUO, 友達光電), LG Display Co and Toshiba Corp agreed to pay US$543.5 million to resolve allegations they conspired to fix prices of flat-screen panels used in TVs and computer monitors.
Money from the settlement will be available to consumers in 24 US states who overpaid for electronics because of the alleged price-fixing, said San Francisco attorney Joseph Alioto, co-lead counsel representing screen purchasers suing the firms.
The manufacturers will also pay US$27.5 million in civil penalties to eight states, bringing the total to US$571 million, he said, without specifying how much each will pay. The companies confirmed a settlement agreement was reached.
“That’s what they agreed to, that’s what we’ve agreed to,” Alioto said on Wednesday in a telephone interview.
A court filing seeking approval of the settlement was to be filed yesterday in a US federal court in San Francisco, he said.
Toshiba will pay US$21 million if the settlement is approved by the court, Toshiba spokesman Keisuke Oomori said by telephone yesterday.
“Toshiba denies any wrongdoing on its part in the LCD business, and we entered settlement to avoid further expense and the distraction of protracted litigation,” Oomori said.
AU Optronics has already made sufficient provisions for the settlement and expects no material impact on its operations or finances, the Hsinchu-based company said in a filing to the Taiwan Stock Exchange yesterday.
Claire Ohm, a spokeswoman for Seoul-based LG Display, confirmed that a settlement had been reached, but declined further comment in an e-mail.
Combined with an earlier settlement with other panel makers for US$538.5 million, approved on Wednesday by a federal judge, the cash settlement of more than US$1 billion sets a record for a recovery in a class action, or group, lawsuit over price-fixing, Alioto said.
A US Department of Justice investigation that led to guilty pleas by LG Display, Chunghwa Picture Tubes Ltd (中華映管) and Sharp Corp preceded lawsuits filed in San Francisco. The firms agreed in 2008 and 2009 to pay US$585 million in criminal fines, the US said.
The companies are alleged to have fixed prices for the screens, driving up prices between 1999 and 2006, according to the class-action lawsuit filed in 2007.