Exec Acquitted of LCD Price-Fixing

A federal jury has acquitted AU Optronics Corp.’s head of notebook sales division of price-fixing in the market for liquid crystal displays, used in tablets, smartphones and computer screens.

Richard Bai faced a single count of violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act and won acquittal late Thursday at the end of a nearly three-week trial.  Three other executives were convicted in two separate trials in 2012.

The difference for Bai was the concession by antitrust prosecutors that Bai did not attend many of the secret meetings in Taiwan, known as “crystal meetings” in which the price-fixing allegedly occurred.

In December, a separate jury found another executive, Steven Leung, guilty of price-fixing conspiracy for his role in controlling the prices of LCDs between 2001 and 2006.  Leung was sentenced to two years in prison and fined $50,000 in April.

Earlier in 2012, at a separate trial, two top executives, H.B. Chen and Hui “Kuma” Hsing, were convicted of price-fixing and both sentenced to prison.

AUO was the only one of the several companies accused of conspiring to fix LCD prices that took the question to trial.  It’s other rivals accused of antitrust violations entered guilty pleas and paid nearly $1 billion in fines.  Those companies included LG Display Co., Chunghwa Picture Tubes, Chi Mei Optoelecronics Corp. and Sharp Corp.

AUO’s top U.S. customers included Apple Inc., Dell Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co.

Prosecutors told jurors that Bai once bragged to company executives about raising LCD panel prices, but jurors rejected the government’s arguments.

Case:  U.S. v. Lin, No. 09-CR-110SI

 

 

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