LCD price fixing probe nets ninth Taiwanese executive

A long-running price-fixing probe into the LCD panel business has netted its ninth indictment against a Taiwanese executive, the U.S. Department of Justice said Thursday.

The indictment charges that Wang Hsin-tsung was part of a conspiracy from 2001 to 2006 to fix prices of LCD panels, which are used in products ranging from LCD TVs and computer displays to smartphones and more.

Wang was a vice president of sales and marketing at Chi Mei Optoelectronics at the time. Chi Mei last December agreed to plead guilty and pay $220 million for its part in the price-fixing conspiracy. At least four other former Chi Mei executives have plead guilty to price fixing charges and agreed to serve time in jail.

Chi Mei was bought by rival Innolux last year and became Chimei Innolux.

Wang became the ninth Taiwanese executive personally charged in the global price fixing scheme. The Department of Justice (DOJ) alleges he was part of secret meetings held in Taipei hotel rooms, where executives stifled competition by setting agreed upon prices for LCD panels. Price fixing by LCD makers directly affected U.S. companies including Apple, Dell and Hewlett-Packard, the DOJ said.

Higher LCD and other component prices are usually passed on to consumers.

The investigation has already led to charges against eight companies and 20 executives, and more than $890 million in criminal fines have been collected by the agency.

If convicted, Wang could face up to 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine, an amount that can be increased depending on the value of the crime involved.

A federal grand jury last June indicted six Taiwanese executives from AU Optronics, the world’s fourth largest LCD panel maker, as well as naming the company itself. AU is fighting the charges.

Taiwan’s HannStar Display in June agreed to plead guilty and pay a US$30 million criminal fine for its role in the price-fixing conspiracy.

A number of other companies, including from Japan and South Korea, have also been charged.

Several individual U.S. states have filed charges against LCD panel makers as well.

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