The Department of Justice announced yesterday that a Federal Grand Jury had returned a "superseding indictment" against AU Optronics Corp, its Houston subsidiary, and six of its executives.
The agency charges "that AU Optronics Corporation participated in a conspiracy to fix the prices of TFT-LCD panels sold worldwide from Sept. 14, 2001, to Dec. 1, 2006. AU Optronics Corporation, its American subsidiary, AU Optronics Corporation America, and six AU Optronics’ executives, each a resident of Taiwan, participated in the conspiracy at various times during the alleged conspiracy time period."
It reckons that by the end of the period concerned, the market for TFT-LCD panels had swollen to $70bn. The statement says that companies including Apple, Dell and HP, as well as other computer and TV manufacturers were directly affected by the alleged price fixing conspiracy.
The list of execs charged includes AU Optronics' president, Hsuan Bin Chen. The charges claim that the execs "carried out the conspiracy by agreeing to fix prices of TFT-LCD panels during meetings and issuing price quotations in accordance with the agreements reached.
"As a part of the conspiracy, executives from AU Optronics and its American subsidiary also exchanged information on sales of TFT-LCD panels for the purpose of monitoring and enforcing adherence to the agreed-upon prices," it adds.
The agency said the indictment supersedes an earlier indictment against co-conspirators from Chunghwa Picture Tubes LTD and LG Display Co Ltd.
If convicted under the Sherman Act, individuals could face ten years inside as well as a $1m fine, while companies face a $100m fine. The fines can also be increase to twice the gain from the crime, or the twice the loss suffered by victims.
Regulatory authorities on both sides of the Atlantic have been targeting the LCD market over alleged price fixing. A number of firms have already been brought to book by US authorities, while the EU has also been sniffing around the market. ®