Toshiba may dodge $87 mln LCD price fixing penalty

Toshiba 46L5200U

A California jury has found Japanese electronics giant Toshiba is liable for some $87 million in damages for participating in a scheme with other vendors to fix prices on LCD displays. Under the penalty, Toshiba is due to pay some $70 million to consumers who bought finished products impacted by the price-fixing scheme, and another $17 million to equipment manufacturers who paid artificially inflated prices for LCD panels used in their products.

Toshiba maintains that it did not act illegally and has vowed to pursue all legal options to have the verdict overturned — but, in the meantime, Toshiba may not have to pay a cent anyway, thanks to settlements from other companies in the case.

“Toshiba has consistently maintained that there was no illegal activity on its part in the LCD business in the United States, and Toshiba continues to hold that view,” the company said in a statement.

The civil case before the California jury follows on a 2007 probe by the U.S. Justice Department into allegations of price fixing. The DOJ probe led to many companies pleading guilty and agreeing to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in fines. Most other defendants in the California civil case also decided to settle — including Sharp, Samsung, and Hitachi — but Toshiba maintained it was innocent and wanted the case to go to a jury.

However, credits from settlements by other defendants in the case may mean Toshiba never has to shell out a penny, because those settlements already amount fo more than the damages finding against Toshiba — even if those damages are tripled under U.S. antitrust laws.

Taiwan’s AU Optronics also chose to dispute the price fixing charges in court. The strategy didn’t work out so well: the company and two senior executives were found guilty, and now face fines up to $1 billion.