WASHINGTON – A former executive from Chi Mei Optoelectronics Corporation has agreed to plead guilty and to serve jail time in the United States for participating in a global conspiracy to fix the price of thin-film transistor-liquid crystal display (TFT-LCD) panels, the Department of Justice announced today.
According to a one-count felony charge filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, Chen-Lung Kuo conspired with others to suppress and eliminate competition by fixing the prices of TFT-LCD panels. Kuo, a resident of Taiwan and the former vice president of sales of Chi Mei, participated in the conspiracy from as early as April 2004, to on or about Dec.1, 2006.
Under his plea agreement, which is subject to court approval, Kuo has agreed to serve nine months in jail, to pay a $35,000 criminal fine and to assist the department in its ongoing TFT-LCD investigation.
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. Companies directly affected by the LCD price-fixing conspiracy are some of the largest computer and television manufacturers in the world, including Apple, Dell and Hewlett Packard.
The department charged that Kuo participated in a conspiracy in which the participants met and agreed to charge prices of TFT-LCD panels at certain predetermined levels. The participants in that conspiracy also issued price quotations in accordance with the agreements reached and exchanged information on the sales of TFT-LCD panels for the purpose of monitoring adherence to the agreed-upon prices, the department said.
As a result of this investigation, more than $890 million in criminal fines have been obtained to date. Including today’s filing, 19 executives and eight companies have been charged in the department’s ongoing investigation into price fixing in the LCD industry.
Kuo is charged with violating the Sherman Act, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine for individuals. The maximum fine may be increased to twice the gain derived from the crime or twice the loss suffered by the victims if either of those amounts is greater than the statutory maximum fine.
Today’s charge is 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.