Toshiba Hit With $87 Million Fine for LCD Panel Price Fixing

Toshiba is the latest LCD panel manufacturer to pay up following charges of price-fixing in the United States.

Consumer electronics and technology giant Toshiba has been fined $87 million by the US District Court in San Francisco for collaborating with other liquid crystal display (LCD) screen manufacturers to keep prices of the panels artificially high. LCD panels are used in a wide variety of devices, including televisions, computers and mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. Despite the verdict, the company said it might not have to pay the fine.

"Toshiba has consistently maintained that there was no illegal activity on its part in the LCD business in the United States, and Toshiba continues to hold that view. While Toshiba appreciates the jury's time and effort, Toshiba believes that the jury's verdict is in error as to the finding of wrongdoing," Toshbia said in a prepared statement reported by the AFP newswire. "Given credits for settlements by other defendants, Toshiba expects that it will not have to pay any damages as a result of this verdict, even after trebling under US antitrust laws."

The civil class action lawsuit, TFT-LCD (Flat Panel) Antitrust Litigation, MDL No. 1827, was filed in 2007 by purchasers of LCD panels installed in a variety of devices. €œRival LCD makers met in secret in karaoke bars, tea rooms, and hotel conference rooms in Taiwan to set prices rather than letting market forces prevail, according to US officials,€ the AFP report said. Taiwanese electronics company AU Optronics, which settled in April, and several other major LCD panel manufacturers had previously decided to settle, among them Samsung Electronics, Sharp and LG Electronics.

"We are very pleased the jury found in favor of the plaintiffs and found that Toshiba violated the law, particularly in light of the government's decision not to criminally prosecute Toshiba for its misconduct," Richard Heimann, co-lead counsel for the plaintiffs, said in a report issued by Reuters. In a report issued by Bloomberg, Toshiba said the verdict would not affect the company€™s fiscal performance in 2012.

In December 2011, Chi Mei Innolux, Chunghwa Picture Tubes, Epson Imaging Devices, HannStar Display, Hitachi Displays, Samsung and Sharp, alongside certain affiliated entities of each corporation€”agreed to pay more than $538 million to settle antitrust claims brought on behalf of consumers, government entities and other public entities by a multistate group of eight attorneys general and private class-action attorneys. Separately, five of the companies agreed to pay more than $14 million to settle civil fine and penalty law claims brought by the states in their law enforcement capacities. The corporations also agreed to engage in antitrust compliance programs and to cooperate with the states' ongoing prosecution of other industry participants.