Hitachi pleads guilty, to pay fine in LCD price-fixing probe

Hitachi Displays has pleaded guilty for its role in pricing fixing in the LCD market, joining LG, Chunghwa and Sharp.

Hitachi Displays joined LG, Chunghwa and Sharp among companies that have pleaded guilty to participating in price fixing in the LCD market.

Hitachi has agreed to pay US$31 million in fines for its role in a conspiracy to fix prices on LCD display panels sold to Dell for use in desktop computers and laptops, the U.S. Department of Justice said on Tuesday.

The DOJ charged Hitachi with participating in meetings in Japan, Korea and the U.S. to discuss prices for the LCDs over a period stretching from April 1, 2001, through March 31, 2004. Hitachi also shared information on its sales of the LCDs sold to Dell as a way to show that it stuck to the agreed-upon prices, the DOJ said.

In addition to its guilty plea, Hitachi has also agreed to cooperate with the DOJ's ongoing investigation. The plea agreement still must be approved by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

Late last year, the DOJ began to announce other companies that were involved in the price-fixing scheme. So far, more than $585 million in criminal fines have been imposed, and four people have pleaded guilty and have been sentenced to jail time.

In December, LG pleaded guilty to its role in the conspiracy and was sentenced to pay a $400 million fine -- the second-largest ever imposed by the Antitrust Division. LG and Chunghwa executives have been sentenced to serve between six and nine months in prison, in addition to paying fines.

The DOJ estimates that the total market for LCD panels was about $70 billion in 2006.

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