WASHINGTON, DC--Three Asian electronics firms have agreed to plead guilty and pay $585 million in fines for conspiring to drive up the prices of LCD screens used in computers, TVs, cell phones and other electronic devices.
In a plea deal filed Wednesday, LG Display Co. Ltd., Sharp Corp., and Chunghwa Picture Tubes Ltd. agreed to cooperate in an antitrust investigation headed by the U.S. Justice Department. The plea agreement was filed in federal court in San Francisco.
Assistant attorney general Thomas O. Barnett said the scheme cost not only consumers, but also Dell, Motorola, and Apple Computer. He did not have a cost value for the losses, and said the investigation is continuing.
"These price-fixing conspiracies affected millions of American consumers who use computers, cell phones and numerous other household electronics every day," Barnett told reporters at a Justice Department briefing. "By conspiring to drive up the price of LCD panels, consumers were forced to pay more for these products."
There is a $70 billion worldwide market for LCD screens. Regulators in Asia and the European Union also have opened investigations into LCD pricing.
The Justice Department said LG Display, a South Korean company, and its LG Display America Inc. unit agreed to pay a $400 million fine for participating in a conspiracy to fix the price of certain LCD panels from September 2001 to June 2006. That is the second highest criminal fine ever imposed by the Justice Department's antitrust division.