Hitachi-LG execs facing jail time over price-fixing

South Korean execs at a joint Hitachi and LG venture have pleaded guilty to charges of price fixing.

Park Young-Keun, Kim Sang-Hun and Sik Hur have agreed to serve prison sentences after price fixing optical disk drives such as CD-ROMs, with devices sold to Microsoft and Dell, according to AFP. The price fixing occurred at various times between 2005 and 2009.

The three men were working for Hitachi-LG Data Storage (HLDS), a joint business between Japan’s Hitachi Ltd. and South Korea’s LG Electronics, and have now been ordered to pay a $25,000 fine on top of their prison sentences.  These amount to eight months for Park and Kim, and seven months for Hur, and will be served in the US following a ruling by the Justice Department.

HLDS itself pleaded guilty to a San Francisco District Court to 14 counts of violating antitrust laws, and was told to cough up $21.1 million in fines.

South Korea has been seeing its fair share of price fixing claims debacles recently, with LG one of many panel makers being dragged across courts worldwide after the practice was found to be widespread.  This led to Samsung, LG and others recently paying a total of $175 million in fines to antitrust authorities after many secret meetings took place to fix prices.

Following the ruling at the HDLS case, acting assistant attorney general at the US Justice Department Sharis Pozen said that the Antitrust Division pledged a “continued commitment to protect competition in the high-tech industry”.  

The Department is also on the lookout for more executives in the optical disk drive business who have been up to no good with bid rigging and price fixing.