LCD makers cough up antitrust pay-out

LCD panel makers Samsung, Sharp, and five others have agreed to pay over $553 million to make lawyers hired by consumer and state watchdogs go away.

The watchdogs had barked that the “less-than-magnificiant seven” conspired to fix prices for LCD panels in televisions, notebook computers and monitors.

It is the latest in a list of settlements based on the idea that there was an illegal international cartel designed to inflate prices and stifle competition in LCD panels between 1999 and 2006.

According to Reuters, in December 2006, authorities in Japan, Korea, the European Union and the United States revealed a probe into alleged anti-competitive activity among LCD panel manufacturers.

Lots of companies and executives have since pleaded guilty to criminal antitrust violations and paid more than $890 million in fines.

This latest payout was to cover indirect purchasers that bought televisions and computers with thin film transistor LCDs. It settles claims by eight states: Arkansas, California, Florida, Michigan, Missouri, New York, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said that the “less-than-magnificiant seven” manipulated the playing field for businesses that abide by the rules, and left consumers to pay artificially higher costs for televisions, computers and other electronics.

Under the arrangement Samsung pays $240 million, Sharp $115.5 million, Chimei Innolux, $110.3 million, Hitachi Displays pays $39 million, HannStar Display, $25.7 million; Chunghwa Picture Tubes Ltd, $5.3 million, and Epson Imaging Devices $2.9 million.

The “less-than-magnificiant seven” have agreed to establish antitrust compliance programs and to help prosecute other defendants.

Other defendants have yet to settle, including AU Optronics, one of the largest LCD panel manufacturers, LG Display and Toshiba.