WASHINGON – Following an eight-week trial, a federal jury in San Francisco today convicted the largest Taiwan liquid crystal display (LCD) producer, its Houston-based subsidiary and their two former top executives for their participation in a five-year conspiracy to fix the prices of thin-film transistor-liquid crystal display (TFT-LCD) panels sold worldwide, the Department of Justice announced. The jury also found that the ill-gotten gain to the conspirators as a result of the fixed sales in the United States was at least $500 million.
AU Optronics Corporation and its American subsidiary, AU Optronics Corporation America, were found guilty today in the U.S. District Court in San Francisco. The trial began on Jan. 9, 2012. AU Optronics Corporation is based in Hsinchu, Taiwan. AU Optronics Corporation America is headquartered in Houston. The companies and individuals were indicted on June 9, 2010. The indictment charged that AU Optronics Corporation participated in the worldwide price-fixing conspiracy from Sept. 14, 2001, to Dec. 1, 2006, and that its subsidiary participated at various times during the conspiracy.
Former AU Optronics Corporation president Hsuan Bin Chen and former AU Optronics Corporation executive vice president Hui Hsiung were also found guilty. The department said that both executives participated in the conspiracy from Oct. 19, 2001, to Dec.1, 2006.
In addition to today’s convictions, seven companies have pleaded guilty to date to charges arising out of the department’s ongoing investigation and have been sentenced to pay criminal fines totaling more than $890 million. In addition to the individuals convicted today, 17 executives have been charged. Ten of the executives have pleaded guilty and have been sentenced to serve a combined total of 2,681 days in prison.
“The jury finding $500 million in ill-gotten gains by members of the cartel demonstrates the harmful effect of this price-fixing conspiracy on American businesses and consumers,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Sharis A. Pozen in charge of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division. “The jury’s decision to hold not only the companies but also their top executives accountable for their anticompetitive actions should send a strong deterrent message to board rooms around the world.”
TFT-LCD panels are used in computer monitors and notebooks, televisions, mobile phones and other electronic devices. By the end of the conspiracy period, the worldwide market for TFT-LCD panels was valued at $70 billion annually. Companies directly affected by the LCD price-fixing conspiracy include some of the largest computer manufacturers in the world, including Apple, Dell and Hewlett Packard.
At trial, the department said that the convicted companies and former executives fixed the prices of LCD panels sold into the United States. The prices were fixed during monthly meetings with their competitors secretly held in hotel conference rooms, karaoke bars and tea rooms around Taiwan. The indictment alleged that the conspiracy lasted for more than five years before it was detected.
Also today, the jury found two AU Optronics Corporation employees not guilty--Lai-Juh Chen, former director of the Desktop Display Business Group, and Tsannrong Lee, former senior manager of the Notebooks Business Group. A mistrial was declared against Hsiu Lung Leung, former AU Optronics Corporation senior manager of Desktop Display Business Group.
The maximum penalty for a Sherman Act violation for an individual is 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine. Since the jury found that the gain derived from the conspiracy was at least $500 million, the maximum fine for the corporations is $1 billion.
Today’s charges are the result of a joint investigation by the Department of Justice Antitrust Division’s San Francisco Field Office and the FBI in San Francisco.
Anyone with information concerning illegal conduct in the TFT-LCD industry is urged to call the Antitrust Division’s San Francisco Field Office at 415-436-6660 or visit www.justice.gov/atr/contact/newcase.htm .