Price-Fixers to Pay $585M
WASHINGTON, Nov. 13, 2008 -- Three leading electronics manufacturers will plead guilty and pay $585 million in fines for their roles in conspiracies to fix prices in the sale of LCD panels, the US Department of Justice announced Wednesday.
Flat-screen makers LG Display, Sharp, and Chunghwa Picture Tubes agreed to plead guilty to the charges filed Wednesday in the US District Court in San Francisco and to cooperate in the Justice Department's ongoing antitrust investigation. Each charge of violating the Sherman Act carries a maximum fine of $100 million for corporations. LG will pay the heftiest chunk of the imposed fine -- $400 million -- the second-highest criminal fine ever imposed by the department’s antitrust division.
Sharp released a statement saying it will pay $120 million, which it will record as extraordinary expenses for the fiscal period of Oct. 1 through Dec. 31, 2008.
The company also said its chairman and CEO and some other directors will voluntarily return 10 to 30 percent of their income from the company for three months starting in December as a gesture of reassurance to shareholders and others.
"Sharp understands the gravity of this situation and will strengthen and thoroughly implement measures to prevent the recurrence of this kind of problem, and will earnestly work to regain the public’s confidence," the company said.
Thin-film transistor-liquid crystal display (TFT-LCD) panels are used in computer monitors and notebooks, televisions, mobile phones, and other electronic devices. In 2006, the worldwide market for TFT-LCD panels was approximately $70 billion. Companies directly affected by the LCD price-fixing conspiracies are some of the largest computer, television and cellular telephone manufacturers in the world, including Apple, Dell and Motorola, the department said.
"Today’s charges and criminal fines emphasize the commitment of the Department of Justice to crack down on international cartels," said Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey.
LG Display Co. Ltd, a South Korean corporation, and its wholly-owned subsidiary, LG Display America Inc., a California company, agreed to plead guilty to participating in a conspiracy from September 2001 to June 2006 to fix the price of TFT-LCD panels sold worldwide. During the conspiracy, LG Display was known as LG.Philips LCD Co. Ltd. (a joint venture between LG Electronics and Philips Electronics) and LG Display America was known as LG.Philips LCD America Inc.
Sharp Corp., a Japanese consumer electronics manufacturer, will pay a $120 million fine for its participation in separate conspiracies to fix the price of TFT-LCD panels sold to Dell Inc. from April 2001 to December 2006 for use in computer monitors and laptops; to Motorola Inc. from fall 2005 to the middle of 2006 for use in Razr mobile phones; and to Apple Computer Inc. from September 2005 to December 2006 for use in iPod portable music players.
Chunghwa, a Taiwanese TFT-LCD panel manufacturer, has agreed to pay a $65 million fine for its participation with LG and other unnamed co-conspirators in a conspiracy from September 2001 to December 2006 to fix the price of TFT-LCD panels sold worldwide.
"These price-fixing conspiracies affected millions of American consumers who use computers, cell phones and numerous other household electronics every day," said Thomas O. Barnett, assistant attorney general in charge of the department’s antitrust division. "These convictions, and the significant fines they carry, should send a clear message that the antitrust division will vigorously investigate and prosecute illegal cartels, regardless of where they are located."
For more information, visit: www.usdoj.gov
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