AU Optronics Corporation Executives Convicted in LCD $500 Million Dollar Price-fixing Conspiracy
WASHINGTON – Federal juries in San Francisco have convicted three executives of the largest Taiwan liquid crystal display (LCD) producer for his participation in a worldwide conspiracy to fix the prices of thin-film transistor-liquid crystal display (TFT-LCD) panels sold worldwide.
Former AU Optronics Corp. president Hsuan Bin Chen, executive vice president Hui Hsiung and Shiu Lung Leung, a senior manager in the Desktop Display Business Group, were found guilty in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in San Francisco, for participating in a worldwide TFT-LCD price-fixing conspiracy.
The indictment charged that AU Optronics Corp. participated in the worldwide price-fixing conspiracy from Sept. 14, 2001, to Dec. 1, 2006, and that its subsidiary joined the conspiracy as early as spring 2003. Juries found the previously convicted companies and former executives guilty of fixing the prices of LCD panels sold in the United States. The conspirators fixed the prices of LCD panels during monthly meetings with their competitors, which were secretly held in hotel conference rooms, karaoke bars and tea rooms around Taiwan.
LCD panels are used in computer monitors and notebooks, televisions and other electronic devices. By the end of the conspiracy, the worldwide market for LCD panels was valued at $70 billion annually. The LCD price-fixing conspiracy affected some of the largest computer manufacturers in the world, including Hewlett Packard, Dell and Apple.
As noted in a previous story, the company and its U.S. subsidiary were sentenced on Sept. 20, 2012, before Judge Susan Illston, to pay a $500 million criminal fine, matching the largest fine imposed against a company for violating U.S. antitrust laws. Chen and Hsiung were each sentenced to serve three years in prison and to each pay a $200,000 criminal fine. Leung is awaiting sentencing.
As a result of this ongoing investigation, eight companies have pleaded guilty or been convicted to date and have been sentenced to pay criminal fines totalling more than $1.39 billion. Of the 22 charged executives, 13 have pleaded guilty or have been convicted and seven remain fugitives. The executives who have been sentenced have been ordered to serve a combined total of 4,871 days in prison.
The maximum penalty for a Sherman Act violation for an individual is 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine. The maximum fine may be increased to twice the gain derived from the crime or twice the loss suffered by the victims of the crime, if either of those amounts is greater than the statutory fine. The $500 million dollar crime did not merit close to the maximum sentence or crime for the three Optronics convictions.
However, Scott D. Hammond, Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the Antitrust Division’s criminal enforcement program said
“This international price-fixing conspiracy impacted countless American consumers by raising the price of computer monitors, notebooks and televisions containing LCD panels, today’s guilty verdict demonstrates that the Antitrust Division will continue to hold executives accountable for crimes that undermine a competitive marketplace.”
by Todd Miller
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