LG Display executive pleads guilty in LCD price-fixing case

The South Korean man faces up to a year in prison and a $30,000 fine

A South Korean executive with LG Display has agreed to plead guilty and serve a year in prison for participating in a global conspiracy to fix the prices of TFT-LCD (thin-film transistor liquid crystal display) panels, the U.S. Department of Justice announced.

Bock Kwon, who served in several executive roles at LG Display, conspired with employees from other TFT-LCD panel makers to fix prices between September 2001 and June 2006, the DOJ said. In agreeing Monday to plead guilty to a one-count felony price-fixing charge, Kwon faces up to a year in prison and a US$30,000 fine. A judge in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California must still approve the plea agreement.

TFT-LCD panels are used in computer monitors and notebooks, televisions, mobile phones and other electronic devices. In 2006, the worldwide market for TFT-LCD panels was approximately $70 billion, the DOJ said.

Kwon has served as president of LG Display's Taiwan subsidiary, vice president of notebook sales, vice president of sales planning, and executive vice president of sales and marketing. A representative of LG Display wasn't immediately available for comment.

"The participants in the LCD conspiracy committed a serious fraud upon American consumers by fixing the prices of a product that is in almost every American home," Christine Varney, assistant attorney general in charge of the DOJ's Antitrust Division, said in a statement. "The charges against top-level executives who participated in the LCD conspiracy show the commitment of the Department of Justice to finding and prosecuting those at the highest levels, no matter where they live or where these crimes against American consumers were committed."

Including Monday's charge, four companies and nine individuals have been charged in the DOJ's ongoing antitrust investigation into the TFT-LCD industry. More than $616 million in criminal fines have been imposed, and four people have pleaded guilty and have been sentenced to serve jail time.

Kwon was accused of participating in meetings with competitors to discuss LCD prices and agreeing to abide by the prices they set.

In December, LG Display pleaded guilty to participating in a worldwide conspiracy to fix the price of TFT-LCD panels and was sentenced to pay a $400 million criminal fine, the second-largest fine in DOJ Antitrust Division history. Between December and March, Sharp, Chunghwa Picture Tubes and Hitachi Displays also pleaded guilty to price-fixing charges, and agreed to pay fines ranging from $31 million to $120 million.

Since early February, four additional people have been indicted on LCD price-fixing charges.

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