Former executive convicted for LCD price fixing

A third executive from Taiwan's AU Optronics is convicted for antitrust violations

A former executive at Taiwanese LCD marker AU Optronics has been convicted of participating in a worldwide conspiracy to fix the prices of LCD panels, the U.S. Department of Justice said.

Shiu Lung Leung, AU Optronics' former senior manager in the desktop display business group, was found guilty Tuesday in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in San Francisco. During a three-week trial, Leung was accused of participating in a worldwide LCD price-fixing conspiracy from May 15, 2002, to Dec. 1, 2006.

AU Optronics, based in Hsinchu, Taiwan, and its U.S. subsidiary, AU Optronics America, headquartered in Houston, were found guilty on March 13, following an eight-week trial. Former AU Optronics President Hsuan Bin Chen and former AU Optronics Executive Vice President Hui Hsiung were also found guilty then.

Leung received a new trial following a mistrial in the March proceedings.

"This international price-fixing conspiracy impacted countless American consumers by raising the price of computer monitors, notebooks and televisions containing LCD panels," Scott Hammond, deputy assistant attorney general for the DOJ Antitrust Division's criminal enforcement program, said in a statement.

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, the DOJ alleged.

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.

AU Optronics and its U.S. subsidiary were sentenced on Sept. 20 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.

In the DOJ's ongoing LCD price-fixing investigation, eight companies have pleaded guilty or been convicted and have been sentenced to pay criminal fines totaling more than $1.39 billion. The DOJ has charged 22 executives, and 13 have pleaded guilty or have been convicted, while seven remain fugitives.

The maximum penalty for an individual under the U.S. Sherman Act violation is 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine.

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's e-mail address is grant_gross@idg.com.

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