A TFT-LCD maker has pled guilty to conspiracy to fix prices in the sale of LCD panels. Chi Mei Optoelectronics, based in Tainan, Taiwan, was hit with "$220 million in criminal fines for its role" and agreed to cooperate with U.S. federal authorities, the Department of Justice said in a news release Dec. 9.
"According to a one-count felony charge ... Chi Mei Optoelectronics participated in a conspiracy to fix the prices of TFT [thin-film transistor]-LCD panels sold worldwide from Sept. 14, 2001, to Dec. 1, 2006. ... 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 HP [Hewlett-Packard]," the DOJ said.
"TFT-LCD panels are used in computer monitors and notebooks, televisions, mobile phones and other electronic devices," it continued. When the period in question ended, the total value of the TFT-LCD market was $70 billion. The DOJ said:
""According to the charge, Chi Mei Optoelectronics carried out the conspiracy by agreeing during meetings, conversations and communications to charge prices of TFT-LCD panels at certain pre-determined levels and issuing price quotations in accordance with the agreements reached. As a part of the conspiracy, Chi Mei exchanged information on sales of TFT-LCD panels for the purpose of monitoring and enforcing adherence to the agreed-upon prices.""
As a result of the DOJ conspiracy investigation, it said, "six companies have pleaded guilty or have agreed to plead guilty and have been sentenced to pay or have agreed to pay criminal fines totaling more than $860 million. Additionally, nine executives have been charged to date in the department's ongoing investigation."