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LCD Price Fixing Schemes – WTH?! The LCD Cartel

I just learned about these a day or so ago – how I missed them is beyond me, as I am always in a little bit of shock for some reason every time I discover some corporate criminality.  Hitachi just pleaded guilty to a one-count felony charge in a price fixing scheme dealing with LCD displays.

What?!  I keep trying to count the number of LCD devices in my house.  Then I keep trying to remember how much I paid for each one.  From an article at Wired’s Gadget Lab:

The Japanese company has agreed to pay a fine of Justice Department. According to court reports, Hitachi has admitted its involvement in fixing the prices of LCDs sold to Dell that were later used in monitors and laptops from 2001 to 2004.

The price fix basically involved secret meetings between top executives of companies and them agreeing to set a certain price to sell the LCDs to Dell, and thereby eliminating the natural forces of the open market.

A few months ago, Sharp, LG and Chunghwa of Taiwan also plead guilty to the same conspiracy of price-fixing LCDs in a massive anti-trust settlement. The price-fixing for those companies happened between 2001 and 2006 and also involved the selling of LCD panels to Motorola (for its Razr phones), and Apple (for the iPod).

Hitachi is paying $35 million dollars for their role in this crazy BS scheme to fix LCD display prices.  This makes me just a little ill in the pit of my stomach.  I also learned that LG, Sharp, and a company called Chunghwa Picture Tubes also all plead guilty to the same scheme that took place between 2001 and 2006.  Those companies are paying out $585 million in total – $400 million for LG, $120 million for Sharp, and $65 million for the Taiwan company Chunghwa Picture Tubes.

Ugh.  I bought a Razr phone, a Dell monitor, and an iPod during that time.

The Department of Justice had a press release about the charges, and what the companies did:

LG and Chunghwa are charged with carrying out the conspiracy by:

  • Participating in meetings, conversations, and communications in Taiwan, Korea and the United States to discuss the prices of TFT-LCD panels;
  • Agreeing during those meetings, conversations and communications to charge prices of TFT-LCD panels at certain pre-determined levels;
  • Issuing price quotations in accordance with the agreements reached; and
  • Exchanging information on sales of TFT-LCD panels, for the purpose of monitoring and enforcing adherence to the agreed-upon prices.

Sharp is charged with participating in three separate conspiracies, to fix the price of TFT-LCD panels sold to Dell, Motorola and Apple by:

  • Participating in bilateral meetings, conversations, and communications in Japan and the United States to discuss the prices of TFT-LCD panels to be sold to Dell, Apple and Motorola;
  • Agreeing during those bilateral meetings, conversations and communications to charge prices of TFT-LCD panels at certain pre-determined levels to Dell, Apple and Motorola;
  • Issuing price quotations in accordance with the agreements reached; and
  • Exchanging information on sales of TFT-LCD panels to be sold to Dell, Apple and Motorola, for the purpose of monitoring and enforcing adherence to the agreed-upon prices.

Hmm. I’m going to go take some Pepto now.

Thanks DOJ, Biz Insider, and Wired!