The FBI today noted that twenty-two executives within the Liquid Crystal Display industry have been charged with global conspiracy to fix prices, resulting in the creation of a $71.9 billion Liquid Crystal Display industry over a period of 5 years—2001 to 2006.
Of the twenty-four charged, twelve have been sentenced and fined. The FBI news release cited the Sentencing Memorandum levied on 9/20/12:
“The conspiracy’s breadth and its pernicious effect can hardly be overstated. The conspirators sold $71.9 billion in price-fixed panels worldwide. Even conservatively estimated, the conspirators sold $23.5 billion—AUO [AU Optronics Corp.] alone sold $2.34 billion—in price-fixed panels destined for the United States. The conspiracy particularly targeted the United States and its high-tech companies…But the harm extended beyond these pillars of American’s high-tech economy. The conspiracy affected every family, school, business, charity, and government agency that paid more to purchases notebook computers, computer monitors, and LCD televisions.”
The result of this Memorandum was a $500 million criminal fine against AU Optronics Corporation -- a subsidiary of BenQ, created during the merger of Acer Display Technology and Unipac Optoelectronics -- for participation in the five-year price-fixing conspiracy of “thin-film transistor LCD panels sold worldwide” (FBI.gov).
Conspirators allegedly “met secretly in a Taiwan hotel room and agreed to a plan to fix prices of LCDs in the US and elsewhere;” these meetings were the result in an elaborate scheme to artificially bolster cost of liquid-crystal display components and manufacturing, based upon shared metrics between participating companies and executives. Price-fixed LCDs resulted in damage to the entire electronics and technology-purchasing sector, coming down all the way down to the consumer-level.
Aside from the $500 million criminal fine—which reportedly “matches the largest fine imposed against a company for violating US Antitrust laws”—the corporation has been required to run advertisements in three major editorial publications, will be audited regularly by third-party, independent auditors, and has been placed on three-year probation, where the corporation must “adopt an antitrust compliance program” and undergo further monitoring by corporate surveyors.
Thus far, eight participating corporations have contributed to the conspiracy to artificially raise LCD prices (which have impacted the price of your product purchases that contain liquid crystal displays – including laptops, monitors, and cameras). A total of $1.39 billion in criminal fines has been levied against the eight entities, not including the individual fines that executives have been sentenced to pay.
The FBI announcement today noted that everyone could be affected:
Did you buy a computer notebook, computer monitor, or big-screen TV anytime from late 2001 to 2006? If you did, odds are that you paid too much for it because of an international criminal conspiracy to fix the prices of the LCD (liquid crystal display) panels used in these products.
A class action suit is currently open, where a $1.1 billion settlement fund will be shared between eligible consumers. If your state is eligible and you think you may have been impacted by this crime, you can file a small claims report on this website.
- Steve "Lelldorianx" Burke.