Hitachi Admits To LCD Price-Fixing, Fined $31 Million

Justice Department officials charged the company with fixing prices on TFT-LCDs sold to Dell for use in desktop monitors and laptops from April 2001 through March 31, 2004.
Hitachi Displays has pleaded guilty to fixing prices on LCD computer monitors, becoming the fourth multinational manufacturer snared by an ongoing antitrust investigation by the Justice Department.

The Japanese electronics manufacturer agreed to pay $31 million in fines for its role in a conspiracy to fix prices in selling thin film transistor-liquid crystal displays, or TFT-LCDs, to computer maker Dell, federal prosecutors said in a statement released Tuesday. The plea agreement will have to be approved by the San Francisco federal court where Hitachi Displays, a subsidiary of Hitachi, was charged with one felony count of price fixing.

Hitachi Displays was charged with fixing prices on TFT-LCDs sold to Dell for use in desktop monitors and laptops from April 2001 through March 31, 2004. The display maker is the fourth multinational company to plead guilty in the Justice Department's ongoing antitrust investigation into the TFT-LCD industry. To date, more than $585 million in criminal fines have been imposed, and four executives have pleaded guilty and have been sentenced to serve jail time.

"This case should send a strong message to multinational companies operating in the United States that when it comes to enforcing the U.S. antitrust laws we mean business," said Scott D. Hammond, acting assistant attorney general in charge of the department’s Antitrust Division.

Other companies that have pleaded guilty include LG Display, Sharp, and Chunghwa Picture Tubes. LG was ordered to pay a $400 million fine, the second largest attained by the antitrust division. Besides Dell, other computer makers who were sold price-fixed displays were Apple and Motorola.

Early last month, a federal grand jury returned an indictment charging former LG executive Duk Mo Koo and two former Chunghwa executives -- Cheng Yuan Lin, a.k.a. C.Y. Lin; and Wen Jun Cheng, a.k.a. Tony Cheng -- with conspiring to fix prices. Arrest warrants have been issued and the three suspects remain at large.

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