Taiwan liquid-crystal-display (LCD) manufacturer, AU Optronics Corp. (AUO), took a gamble and lost big in a criminal case brought against it in the U.S., based on several years of regular price-fixing activities in the LCD-panel industry. A San Francisco jury found AUO guilty in March 2012, after an eight-week trial, but the court announced the sentence just this past week, ordering AUO to pay US$500 million and sentencing two of the company’s top-executives to three years in prison.
AUO was found guilty of participating in more than 60 meetings between 2001 and 2006, at which AUO and most of the other leading manufacturers of thin-film transistor (TFT) LCD-panels conspired to fix production levels and prices of TFT-LCD panels, which are used in computers, cell phones and other products.
It was a rare trial, as defendants in such cases almost always enter into plea bargains. In fact, AUO and its officers were the only defendants in the case who chose to go to trial, with seven other Asian manufacturers and 22 of their executives all pleading guilty, agreeing to pay combined fines of $890 million and accepting prison sentences ranging from six months to slightly over one year. Continue reading