Taiwan's AU Optronics found guilty in LCD price fixing scheme

The company faces a maximum fine of US$1 billion

A U.S. federal jury on Tuesday convicted Taiwan's AU Optronics of taking part in a worldwide price fixing scheme on LCD panels that raked in at least US$500 million from U.S. companies and customers including Apple, Dell and Hewlett-Packard.

The federal jury in San Francisco found guilty AU Optronics, its Houston-based subsidiary, and two former top executives, according to a statement from the U.S. Department of Justice. AU Optronics, one of the world's largest LCD panel producers, is now facing a maximum fine of $1 billion.

The price fixing scheme, which lasted from 2001 to 2006, involved AU Optronics meeting with their competitors to fix the prices for thin-film transistor liquid crystal display (TFT-LCD) panels, which are used in computer monitors, laptops, televisions and mobile phones. The prices were fixed at monthly meetings secretly held at hotels, karaoke bars and tea rooms in Taiwan, DOJ said.

AU Optronics said in a statement it was "deeply disappointed" with the verdict, but that it will appeal the jury's decision, along with any fine given. The company said it questions whether any meetings that occurred in Taiwan falls under the scope of U.S. law. AU Optronics also said it had priced its products below the standard selling rate for them from 2001 to 2006.

Seven other companies have also pleaded guilty to related charges of LCD price fixing, resulting from the DOJ investigations. In total, they paid $890 million in fines, while 10 former executives from the companies pleaded guilty and were sentenced to prison, DOJ said.

The two former AU Optronics executives found guilty were former company president Hsuan Bin Chen and former executive president Hui Hsiung. Former company director Lai-Juh Chen and former senior manager Tsannrong Lee, however were found not guilty. A mistrial was declared for former senior manager Hsiu Lung Leung.

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