There's a good chance you overpaid for a computer monitor or notebook purchased between 1999 and 2006, the time frame in which several display makers were engaged in a price fixing scandal. All but one pleaded guilty and agreed to pay fines of several million dollars, some of which crept into the hundreds of millions. The lone standout? AU Optronics, which was found guilty by a U.S. court.
According to a Reuters report, AU Optronics plans to appeal the verdict, a process that could take more than a year. The alternative is to accept the verdict and pay a fine that could be as high as $1 billion, the maximum penalty for corporations for a Sherman Act violation.
The U.S. Department of Justice said those involved in the price fixing scheme met in hotel rooms, karaoke bars, and tea rooms around Taiwan once a month to carry out a scheme that lasted more than five years. AU Optronics is said to have received at least $500 million in ill-gotten gains.
"The jury finding $500 million in ill-gotten gains by members of the cartel demonstrates the harmful effect of this price-fixing conspiracy on American businesses and consumers," said Acting Assistant Attorney General Sharis A. Pozen in charge of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division. "The jury’s decision to hold not only the companies but also their top executives accountable for their anticompetitive actions should send a strong deterrent message to board rooms around the world."
Former Au Optronics president Hsuan Bin Chen and former executive VP Hui Hsiung were also found guilty, while two other employees -- Lai-Juh Chen, former director of the Desktop Display Business Group, and Tsannrong Lee, former senior manager of the Notebooks Business Group, were found not guilty. A mistrial was declared against Hsiu Lung Leung, former AU Optronics senior manager of Desktop Display Business Group.