LG Sharp and Chungwha plead guilty of LCD price fixing

LG Display and Chunghwa Picture Tubes have agreed to plead guilty and pay $585 million in fines for fixing prices of liquid crystal displays used in a wide variety of electronics, the US Justice Department said on Wednesday.

LG Display conspired with Chunghwa to drive up the prices of LCDs sold to unidentified companies from 2001 to 2006, according to indictments released on Wednesday.

In a second conspiracy, Sharp is accused of working with other unidentified LCD makers to push up the prices of screens sold to Dell for its computer monitors and laptops, Motorola for Razr phones and Apple to install in its iPods.

LG Display, Sharp and Chunghwa were cooperating with U.S. authorities, said Thomas Barnett, assistant attorney general in charge of the Antitrust Division.”

Today’s fines would have been significantly higher were it not for their cooperation,” he said in a press conference.

European and Asian antitrust authorities were also looking at the LCD market, Barnett said.

”There are a number of other participants in this market that have not been charged today,” said Barnett. “This is very much an ongoing investigation.”

Sharp said in a statement posted on its Web site that it “understands the gravity of this situation and will strengthen and thoroughly implement measures to prevent the recurrence of this kind of problem.”

It also said that Sharp’s chairman and CEO and some directors would return 10 to 30 percent of their compensation for three months starting in December.

The company said it would record the fine, which it estimated at 12 billion yen, as extraordinary expenses for the Oct. 1 to Dec. 31 period.

The Justice Department’s Antitrust Division has a leniency programme that allows companies involved in price fixing to receive lesser fines if they are among the first companies involved in any conspiracy to turn themselves in to the department.

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