LG Display, Sharp, and Chunghwa Picture Tubes agreed to plead guilty to criminal charges for participating in a liquid crystal display price-fixing conspiracy and pay $585 million in fines, the U.S. Department of Justice announced Wednesday.
The three companies worked in concert to set prices on thin-film transistor LCDs, which are used in computer monitors, notebooks, televisions, mobile phones, and various electronics, according to the antitrust unit of the Justice Department. Apple, Dell, and Motorola were among the companies affected by the price fixing.
CNET's Dawn Kawamoto reports:
The three companies, which were charged with violating the Sherman Antitrust Act, allegedly held "crystal" meetings and engaged in communications about setting prices on the TFT-LCD displays. They agreed to charge predetermined prices for the displays, issued price quotes based on those agreements, and exchanged sales information on the display panels, in order to monitor and enforce the agreement, the Justice Department said.
LG Display agreed to pay a $400 million fine, marking the second-highest antitrust fine ever imposed...Sharp, meanwhile, agreed to pay a $120 million fine and participated in the conspiracy between April 2001 and December 2006 with other unnamed suppliers. The conspiracy involved setting prices in three separate agreements for TFT-LCD panels sold to Dell, which used them in computer monitors and laptops [...]
During the period ranging from the fall of 2005 to mid-2006, similar price-fixing schemes were employed in sales to Motorola, which used the panels in its popular Razr mobile phones, [in addition to] Apple from September 2005 to December 2006, in which Apple used the displays for its popular iPod music players.
The investigation's still ongoing, but it finally settles the disparity between PC prices (which tend to only go down in price) and flat panel prices (which have occasionally risen). It also helps to explain when Apple was hit with a component shortage of 15-inch LCD panels for its newly introduced all-in-one flat panel iMacs.