The economy is tough currently around the world and here in America. While most technology firms simply do the best they can in the current economic climate, some take things too far and turn to illegal means to protect profits.
This was the case for three of the top LCD panel makers in the world. Sharp, LG, and Chunghwa Picture Tubes have all pled guilty to price fixing in the LCD market. The three firms have agreed to pay fines totaling $585 million to the U.S. Justice Department.
The largest fine levied against one of the three firms was against LG. LG alone is responsible for $400 million of the fine with the remaining $85 million coming from Sharp and Chunghwa. The exact amount that the latter two firms will pay is unknown.
The New York Times reports that the $400 million fine against LG is the second largest fine ever levied by the Justice Department's antitrust division. The largest was a $500 million fine paid by F. Hoffman-La Roche in 1999 for price fixing in nutritional supplements.
These fines may be the end of the price fixing saga for the three firms here in the U.S., but things in Europe and Asia are just getting started. The investigation was conducted jointly between authorities in the U.S., Europe, and Asia.
When all is said and done the total cost for each of the LCD makers will be much higher than the U.S. fines alone. In addition to fines from the Justice Department, the New York Times reports that several class action suits have been filed on behalf of consumers and distributors who purchased screens made by the companies.
Three American firms who purchased LCD panels from the companies in the scandal specifically named by the Justice Department are Dell, Apple, and Motorola. If the price fixing scheme hadn’t been executed by the firms, the panels would be even cheaper than they are now according to authorities.
These LCD makers aren't the only tech companies who have been in trouble for price fixing. NVIDIA agreed to a settlement without admitting guilt over alleged price fixing in the GPU industry.