AUO price-fixing trial to start Jan. 9 in California

Staff Writer, with CNA, LOS ANGELES

Fri, Dec 30, 2011 - Page 11

Taiwanese flat-panel maker AU Optronics Corp’s (AUO, 友達光電) trial on price-fixing charges is scheduled to begin in the US early next month, sources close to the case said on Wednesday.

After more than a year of investigation and negotiations, the US District Court for the Northern District of California has decided to start hearing the anti-trust case on Jan. 9.

AUO, which has repeatedly denied any involvement and has vowed not to plead guilty, declined to comment, as the case is now in the judicial process.

AUO, a subsidiary in Houston, Texas, and six of its former and present senior executives, were indicted by the US Department of Justice in June last year on allegations that the company conspired to fix flat screen prices with other industry rivals in Asia between September 2001 and December 2006.

Three of the six indicated AUO executives — Chen Hsuan-bin (陳炫彬), Chen Lai-juh (陳來助) and Hsiung Hui (熊暉) — have been barred from leaving the US since August last year following a hearing in which they pleaded their case. Prosecutors said there was a flight risk because all three live and work in Taiwan, which has no extradition agreement with the US.

The three are not allowed to travel outside the US without the permission of the US Pretrial Services Agency, but are allowed to move around the country and carry out their duties in Taiwan via teleconference.

The sources said that after the order barring the three executives from leaving the US, AUO and the Justice Department launched negotiations. The talks failed to yield any consensus and department decided to go to trial, the sources said.

Other Asian manufacturers, including Taiwan’s Chmei Innolux Corp (奇美電子) and Chunghwa Picture Tubes Ltd (中華映管), South Korea’s LG Display Co and Japan’s Sharp Corp are among those that have already pleaded guilty through plea bargains with prosecutors and have agreed to pay massive fines and damages.