Federal antitrust prosecutors succeeded on a second try at getting a federal judge to accept a price-fixing guilty plea by Samsung SDI Co. The company agreed to pay a $32 million fine for a nine year conspiracy of price fixing in the color display tube industry. U.S. District Judge William Alsup said he may, or may not, go along with the deal and could order restitution for victims of the conspiracy. But that will wait 90 days for a pre-sentencing report to be prepared.
On May 12, Alsup angrily told the government he would not be “railroaded” into accepting Samsung’s guilty plea without taking some time to go over the fairness of the deal. The prosecutors and Samsung wanted a take-it or leave-it deal on the day of the earlier try at a guilty plea. This time they made no such demand.
He was particularly miffed at the lack of money to pay restitution to companies that bought the tubes at inflated prices. But as the government lawyers pointed out, there is a long-running private civil action in the same courthouse just down the hall. The lawyers are seeking millions in damages from a group of companies that allegedly conspired to fix the price of the tubes.
Under terms of the current criminal plea agreement between Samsung and antitrust prosecutors, the company would still pay the $32 million fine, due immediately. The company also agreed to cooperate in the ongoing federal investigation of the color display tube industry. The new deal makes clear it still does not include restitution for victims. But it does point out that the private litigation allows potential victims to pursue multiple actual damages on their own.
Although Alsup said he could order restitution if he sees fit, the company was willing to take its chances with a report to him in 90 days. They will all be back August 16 for sentencing.
A guilty plea by Samsung would be the first in the federal grand jury investigation of the color display tubes industry. The tubes are used in computer monitors.
Case: U.S. v. Samsung SDI Co., No. 11-CR-0162-WHA