It's not like Hitachi Displays really needs any bad news considering
just how poorly LCD sales are going right now, but regardless of that,
it's still facing a fine that none of us would be fond of facing. The
Japanese electronics manufacturer has just agreed (begrudgingly we're
sure) to pay a staggering $31 million fine for its role in a conspiracy
to fix prices in the sale of TFT-LCD panels sold to Dell, Inc. The
United States Department of Justice made the proclamation, and details
show that Hitachi has plead guilty to a one-count felony.
The charge, which was filed in the U.S. District Court in San
Francisco, blames Hitachi Displays Ltd., a subsidiary of Hitachi
with "participating in a conspiracy to fix the prices of TFT-LCD sold
to Dell for use in desktop monitors and notebook computers from April 1, 2001
through March 31, 2004." We're also told that
according to the plea agreement -- which is subject to court approval --
Hitachi Displays has agreed to cooperate with the Department's ongoing
If you're thinking this all sounds familiar, you'd be correct. Hitachi
is disgracefully joining three other multinational companies who have
"admitted to their involvement in
fixing prices for LCD panels sold to U.S. companies and that have
already paid criminal fines totaling more than $585 million," in the
words of Scott D. Hammond
Acting Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Department's
Antitrust Division. We tend to agree with his thoughts that this case
should sent a stiff message to companies even considering pulling this
trick while doing business in the United States of America.
Specifically, the following is what Hitachi Displays has been charged with carrying out:
Participating in bilateral meetings, conversations and communications in Japan, Korea and the United States to discuss the prices of TFT-LCD to be sold to Dell;
Agreeing, during those bilateral meetings, conversations and
communications, to charge prices of TFT-LCD to be sold to Dell at
certain predetermined levels;
Issuing price quotations in accordance with the agreements reached; and
Exchanging information on sales of TFT-LCD sold to Dell, for the
purpose of monitoring and enforcing adherence to the agreed-upon
This is the fourth plea agreement by a company charged with participating in conspiracies to fix the prices for TFT-LCD. On Dec. 15, 2008,
LG Display Co. (LG) pleaded guilty to participating in a worldwide
conspiracy to fix the price for TFT-LCD and was sentenced to pay a $400 million criminal fine -- the second-largest fine in Antitrust Division history. On Dec. 16, 2008,
Sharp Corp. pleaded guilty to participating in three separate
conspiracies to fix the prices of TFT-LCD sold to Dell, Apple Computer
Inc. and Motorola Inc. and was sentenced to pay a $120 millionJan. 14, 2009,
Chunghwa Picture Tubes Ltd. (Chunghwa) pleaded guilty to participating
in the same worldwide conspiracy as LG, and was sentenced to pay a $65 million criminal fine. criminal fine. On
In February 2009, former Chunghwa CEO Chieng-Hon "Frank" Lin and two Chunghwa executives, Chih-Chun "C.C." Liu and Hsueh-Lung "Brian" Lee,
pleaded guilty to and were sentenced for participating in the same
conspiracy as LG and Chunghwa. Lin was sentenced to serve nine months
in prison and pay a $50,000 criminal fine. Liu was sentenced to serve seven months in prison and pay a $30,000 criminal fine. Lee was sentenced to serve six months in prison and pay a $20,000 criminal fine. Also in February 2009, LG executive Chang Suk "C.S." Chung$25,000 criminal fine.
pleaded guilty for his role in the same conspiracy as LG and Chunghwa.
Chung was sentenced to serve seven months in prison and pay a
On Feb. 3, 2009, a federal grand jury in San Francisco returned an indictment charging two former Chunghwa executives, Cheng Yuan Lin, aka C.Y. Lin, and Wen Jun Cheng, aka Tony Cheng, and one former executive from LG, Duk Mo Koo,
for their participation in the same conspiracy as LG and Chunghwa.
Warrants have been issued for the arrest of all three individuals.
Today's charge is the result of a joint investigation by the
Department of Justice Antitrust Division's San Francisco Field Office
and the Federal Bureau of Investigation in San Francisco.