AU Optronics Corp (友達光電), the nation’s second-largest LCD panel maker, yesterday said the US Department of Justice had asked a federal court to impose a US$1 billion punitive fine in an LCD price-fixing case against the company.
The damages demanded by the US Department of Justice were calculated on an “incorrect” basis, the panel maker said in a statement to the Taiwan Stock Exchange. The US$1 billion fine is the maximum penalty that can be imposed on price-fixing defendants.
“The company believes the Department of Justice’s demand to impose such a fine is based on an overestimate and incorrect analysis of the company’s business scale in the US,” company spokesman Andy Yang (楊本豫) said in the statement.
The Hsinchu-based company said it has provided the court with correct information and analysis for judges to make a proper decision over the fine. The panel maker said it would appeal any penalty handed down by the court.
US attorneys prosecuting the LCD price-fixing case in San Francisco also recommended that AU Optronics vice chairman Chen Hsuan-bin (陳炫彬) and former vice president Hsiung Hui (熊暉) pay US$1 million in fines and serve 10 years in jail, Bloomberg reported yesterday.
In March, a district court jury found AU Optronics and the two high-ranking executives, Chen and Hsiung, guilty of price-fixing, but the court has not yet decided the punishment, three years after the US government charged AU Optronics in 2009.
In Taipei trading, AU Optronics shares tumbled 4.42 percent to NT$10.45 yesterday, weighed down by the US government’s demand for massive price-fixing fines.
AU Optronics said it set aside NT$3.1 billion in the final quarter of last year for potential damages and the company spent US$208 million to settle two civil anti-trust lawsuits in the US last quarter.
AU Optronics is the only company under investigation for conspiring with other LCD-panel suppliers to fix the prices of flat panels from 2001 to 2006 that did not plead guilty.
South Korea’s LG Display Co and Taiwanese panel suppliers Chimei Innolux Corp (奇美電子), Chunghwa Picture Tubes Ltd (中華映管) and HannStar Display Corp (瀚宇彩晶) have already pleaded guilty to price-fixing, while Samsung Electronics Co made a deal in the early stages of the probe to escape prosecution.
AU Optronics said the company’s cash flow is healthy, with cash and cash-equivalents totaling NT$110 billion, which would be sufficient to pay NT$55 billion in debts.