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From Antitrust Law Daily, January 14, 2015

Washington reaches $13M settlement with LG in LCD panel price fixing suit

By Linda O’Brien, J.D., LL.M.

The State of Washington has reached a settlement agreement with LG Display in which the company will pay $13 million in restitution for its alleged role in a global price fixing scheme among LCD manufacturers, Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced yesterday. The South Korean-based consumer electronics company and its U.S. subsidiary, LG Display America Inc., agreed to resolve allegations that the companies violated state antitrust laws.

LG Display is one of eight liquid crystal display (LCD) manufacturers and their subsidiaries charged with fixing prices of LCD panels in the world market from 1998 to 2006.

According to the complaint filed in 2010 by the State of Washington, the eight LCD manufacturers and their subsidiaries participated in cartel meetings in which they exchanged price and output information and agreed to fix panel prices and manipulate the supply of LCD panels to artificially increase panel prices.

The complaint alleged that LG Display was an active participant at the cartel meetings, where it made explicit agreements to set the price of LCD panels. LCD panels are used in products such as televisions, laptop computers, computer monitors, and cell phones, and can account for as much as 80 percent of the cost of a finished product.

The complaint also alleged that LG Display held one-on-one meetings with other manufacturers where it sought out and exchanged competitively sensitive information in order to manipulate the LCD panel market. To avoid detection, LG Display allegedly took steps to conceal its participation in these meetings.

LG Display did not admit the allegations in the complaint, but agreed to the settlement terms. In addition to the $13 million payment, the settlement agreement requires LG Display to cooperate with Attorney General to identify in documents and deposition testimony produced during discovery all material facts showing LG’s participation in the alleged conspiracy with other LCD manufacturers. LG Display is also required to participate in future monitoring and to develop programs to ensure there are no future antitrust violations.

In 2012, Washington reached an agreement with defendants Hitachi Ltd., Hitachi Display Co. Ltd., and Hitachi Electronic Devices (USA) Inc. for $5.2 million. A trial is scheduled for April 2015 for the remaining defendants. Once a resolution is reached with all of the involved companies, the Attorney General’s Office will begin the process of returning money to consumers.

The remaining defendants are: AU Optronics Corporation; AU Optronics Corp. America; Chi Mei Innolux Corporation; Chi Mei Optoelectronics USA Inc.; Epson Imaging Devices Corporation; Epson Electronics America Inc.; Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd.; Samsung Semiconductor Inc.; Samsung Electronics America Inc.; Sharp Corporation; Sharp Electronics Corporation; Toshiba Corporation; Toshiba America Electronics Components Inc.; Toshiba America Information Systems Inc.; and Toshiba Mobile Display Technology Co. Ltd.

To date, seven LCD manufacturers have pleaded guilty to related federal antitrust charges filed by the U.S. Department of Justice.

“Illegal price fixing hurts consumers and the majority of businesses that play by the rules,” Attorney General Bob Ferguson said. “Our Antitrust Division works hard to protect Washington residents and hold accountable those businesses that seek to exploit unfair advantage.”

Companies: LG Display Co. Ltd.; LG Display America Inc.

MainStory: TopStory Antitrust WashingtonNews

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