Earlier this month, Samsung, Sharp and six other LCD manufacturers agreed to pay $388 million to settle price-fixing claims made by direct buyers. The settlement was part of a series of antitrust cases brought by Arkansas, California, Florida, Michigan, Missouri, New York, West Virginia and Wisconsin which were consolidated in federal court in San Francisco.
In late 2006, a probe into price-fixing allegations made by direct and indirect buyers was initiated by authorities in Japan, Korea, the European Union and the United States. Eventually many companies and executives stepped forward and pleaded guilty to criminal antitrust violations. Among them were LG, Chunghwa Picture Tubes and Sharp who reportedly agreed in 2008 and 2009 to pay $585 million in criminal fines alone. A total of more than $890 million in fines was paid out from all guilty parties.
A class action lawsuit thus followed in 2007, claiming that the companies allegedly fixed LCD panel prices, thus driving up prices for direct buyers of LCD panels and related gadgets (HDTVs, desktops, notebooks etc) from 1999 to 2006. Sharp paid $105 million, Samsung paid $82.7 million and Chimei Innolux paid $78 million -- the other five paid a total sum of $122.3 million.
However now six LCD makers must pay an additional $539 million to settle antitrust claims made by indirect buyers.
In court papers filed in San Francisco on Friday, Samsung has proposed to pay indirect buyers $240 million, Sharp $115.5 million and Taiwan-based Chimei Innolux Corp $110 million. The rest of the $539 bulk will be paid by Hitachi, Chunghwa Picture Tubes, and Epson Imagine Devices. These companies have also agreed to establish antitrust compliance programs regarding the pricing and production of LCD panels, and to help prosecute other defendants.
Meanwhile, the six settling companies are now disputing the allegations. Other defendants have also yet to settle including AU Optronics, LG and Toshiba. The case is In Re TFT-LCD (Flat Panel) Antitrust Litigation, 07-01827, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California (San Francisco).