Components

Former HannStar Exec Pleads Guilty in LCD Price-fixing Probe

A former director of sales at HannStar Display of Taiwan has agreed to plead guilty and serve jail time for participating in a global conspiracy to fix the prices of thin-film transistor liquid crystal display (TFT-LCD) panels, the U.S. Department of Justice announced.

Jui Hung "Sam" Wu conspired with others to suppress and eliminate competition by fixing the prices of TFT-LCD panels, used in computer monitors and laptops, televisions, mobile phones and other electronic devices, the DOJ said in a press release.

Wu would serve seven months in prison, pay a US$200,000 fine and assist the DOJ in its ongoing investigation of LCD price fixing, under a plea agreement subject to approval by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in San Francisco.

Wu, former executive director of global sales and marketing at HannStar, participated in the conspiracy from about September 2001 to January 2006, the DOJ said.

HannStar officials weren't immediately available for comment.

The worldwide market for TFT-LCDs was about $70 billion a year by the end of the conspiracy, the DOJ said. Companies directly affected by the conspiracy included Dell, Apple and Hewlett-Packard, the agency said.

As part of the conspiracy, participants met and agreed to charge predetermined prices for TFT-LCD panels, the DOJ said. The participants also quoted prices based on the fixed prices, and the companies involved exchanged information on the sales of LCDs as a way to enforce the fixed prices, the agency said.

U.S. courts have levied more than $980 million in fines as a result of the price-fixing investigation. Including Wu, 21 executives and eight companies have faced criminal charges.

Wu was charged with violating the U.S. Sherman Act, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine for individuals, although the fine can be increased to twice the gain derived from the crime or twice the loss suffered by the victims if either of those amounts is greater than the statutory maximum fine.

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's e-mail address is grant_gross@idg.com.

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