US states settle price-fixing claims with LCD makers

The seven companies have settled for over US$550 million with eight U.S. states

Seven Asian companies have come to a US$553 million settlement with several U.S. states in connection with charges of fixing prices of LCD (liquid crystal display) screens, thus pushing up the prices of computers, television sets and other electronics in which the panels were used.

Chimei Innolux, Chunghwa Picture Tubes, Epson Imaging Devices, HannStar Display, Hitachi Displays, Samsung Electronics, Sharp and certain affiliates agreed to pay over $538 million to settle antitrust claims brought on behalf of consumers, government entities, and other public entities by a group of eight attorneys general and private class action attorneys, according to a a statement on Tuesday from the office of New York attorney general, Eric T. Schneiderman.

Separately, five of the companies agreed to pay over $14 million to settle civil fine and penalty law claims brought by the states in their law enforcement capacity, according to the statement.

Attorneys general of eight states including New York, Arkansas, Florida, Michigan, Missouri, California, West Virginia and Wisconsin, as well as a class action brought on behalf of private claimants in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, joined in the settlements, according to a statement from the office of the California attorney general, Kamala D. Harris.

Under the agreements, the companies will pay up to $37 million to compensate government and other public entities for damages resulting from the purchase of TFT (thin film transistor) LCD panels. Up to $501 million will be available for partial refunds to compensate consumers residing in 24 states and the District of Columbia who purchased products containing TFT-LCD panels during the period from January 1, 1999 through December 31, 2006, according to the statement from the New York attorney general.

Samsung will have to pay the largest amount of $240 million in the settlement, according to details released by the Wisconsin department of justice.

The California case was originally filed in San Francisco Superior Court, where litigation continues against two AU Optronics and LG companies, and three Toshiba entities, said the office of the California attorney general. Litigation will also continue in Florida against non-settling defendants, including LG, Toshiba, and AU Optronics, said the office of Florida attorney general Pam Bondi. New York will also continue to pursue a lawsuit against three other corporations charged with participating in the cartel.

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