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Justice Department indicts president of Taiwan LCD maker

A federal grand jury in San Francisco has returned an indictment against the current president of Taiwan’s Hannstar Display Corporation, Ding Hui Joe (a.k.a. David Joe) for participating in a global conspiracy to fix prices for TFT-LCD display panels from September 2001 through January 2006. The indictment makes Joe the 22nd executive to be charged in the broad-ranging conspiracy, which has also seen indictments, fines, and even jail time for executives from companies like LG, Chunghwa, Sharp, Hitachi, and others.

According to the one-count felony charge, Joe participated in so-called “Crystal Meetings” held in hotel rooms in Taipei as which manufacturers exchanged information on sales of TFT-LCD displays and agreed to fix pricing for the products. Joe faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine of $1 million, although the fine can be increased to double the gain derived from the anticompetitive activity if that would be greater than the statutory fine. The Justice Department alleges that as a result of the conspiracy, competition in the LCD market was suppressed, leading to higher prices being paid by leading computer and television manufacturers like Dell, Apple, and Hewlett-Packard…and, of course, those costs were passed right along to consumers.

Back in June, Hannstar plead guilty to pricing fixing and agreed to pay a $30 million fine, and former Hannstar director Jui Hung Wu pleaded guilty to participating in the scheme, agreeing to serve a seven-month prison term and pay a $200,000 fine, as well as assist the Justice Department with its ongoing investigation.

The indictment against Joe is just the latest in a string of fines and charges against LCD manufacturers; so far, the Justice Department has netted almost $900 million in fines from manufacturers, and charged 22 executives at eight companies for participating in the scheme.

Many of the companies involved with the price-fixing scheme face lawsuits from gear-makers like Dell and Nokia. Early last year, executives from LG and Chunghwa pleaded guilty to participating in the scheme and drew jail time as well as substantial personal fines.