Asian Executives Face Jail in US for Fixing LCD Prices

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Four current and former executives from LG Display in South Korea and from Chunghwa Picture Tubes in Taiwan have agreed to plead guilty and serve jail terms in the U.S. for participating in a conspiracy to fix prices in the sale of TFT-LCD (Thin Film Transistor-Liquid Crystal Display) panels, according to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).

They are the first to plead guilty to a charge of fixing prices in the active investigations into anti-trust violations in the TFT-LCD industry, the DOJ said Thursday.

The four executives are charged with price fixing in violation of the Sherman Act, which carries a maximum fine of US$1 million and up to 10 years in prison for an individual.

Under plea agreements which have to be approved by the courts, the executives have agreed to serve prison terms ranging from six to nine months and pay criminal fines of between US$20,000 and $50,000, besides assisting the U.S. government in ongoing investigations into the TFT-LCD price-fixing, DOJ said.

The individual plea agreements follow moves by LG Display, Chunghwa and Sharp to plead guilty and pay criminal fines for fixing LCD panel prices. LG Display agreed to pay a $400 million criminal fine, while Chunghwa settled for a $65 million criminal fine.

Sharp also pleaded guilty in December to three separate conspiracies to fix the prices of TFT-LCD panels sold to Dell, Apple Computer, and Motorola Inc, and was sentenced to pay a $120 million criminal fine, DOJ said.

Among the executives charged is Chang Suk "C.S." Chung, an LG executive who is alleged in a one-count felony charge to have conspired with unnamed employees from other panel makers to suppress and eliminate competition by fixing the prices of TFT-LCD panels from late 2001 to mid 2006, the DOJ said. During the conspiracy, Chang Suk Chung, a Korean citizen, worked as LG's Vice President of Monitor Sales.

Among the three Taiwanese executives from Chunghwa is Chieng-Hon "Frank" Lin, a Taiwanese and U.S. citizen, who was Chunghwa's former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. All three executives are charged with participating in the TFT-LCD price fixing conspiracy at various times during the period from Sept. 14, 2001, to December 2006, the DOJ said.

These cases involve the first Taiwanese nationals to face imprisonment in the U.S. for an antitrust offense, it added.

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