LCD Maker Chi Mei Admits Price Fixing

Chi Mei Optoelectronics, a Taiwanese producer of thin-film transistor liquid crystal displays (TFT-LCD) has pleaded guilty to price fixing conspiracy and agreed to pay $220 million in fines. According to a felony charge filed today in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, Chi Mei Optoelectronics participated in a conspiracy to fix the prices of TFT-LCD panels sold globally from Sept. 14, 2001, to Dec. 1, 2006. Chi Mei also agreed to cooperate with the department’s ongoing antitrust investigation.

The worldwide market for TFT-LCD panels used in computer monitors and notebooks, televisions, mobile phones and other electronic devices was valued at $70 billion in 2006. Chi Mei Optoelectronic, according to the charges, agreed with other LCD manufacturers, during meetings, conversations and communications, to set prices of TFT-LCD panels at pre-determined levels and issued price quotations per the agreements.

The antitrust investigation has so far resulted in six companies- LG Display, Sharp Corp., Chunghwa Picture Tubes Ltd., Epson Imaging Devices Corp. and a unit of Hitachi Ltd. - pleading guilty or agreeing to plead guilty; they have agreed to pay criminal fines totaling more than $860 million. Nine executives have been charged to date in the department’s ongoing investigation.