Hitachi to plead guilty in LCD price fixing scheme

Hitachi is the latest company to plead guilty in an LCD panel price fixing conspiracy that has already snared Sharp, LG and Chunghwa.

The company, in a deal with the U.S. Justice Department, has agreed to pay $31 million in fines for price fixing screens that were offered to Dell.  The price fixing ranges from April 2001 until March 2004, with one felony charge filed in the US District Court in san Francisco against Hitachi.

To date, the Justice Department has issued $585 million in fines to South Korean and Japanese companies, with future fines also still possible.  Seven executives have been indicted in the U.S., with four of them pleading guilty and receiving prison sentences.

“Hitachi joins three other multinational companies who have admitted to their involvement in fixing prices for LCD panels sold to U.S. companies and that have already paid criminal fines totaling more than $585 million,” Acting Assistant Attorney General Scott Hammond said in a statement.  “This case should send a strong message to multinational companies operating in the United States that when it comes to enforcing the U.S. antitrust laws we mean business.”

Considering it’s unknown how much money these companies made from price fixing, “heavy” fines will likely not stop companies from carrying out similar acts in the future.  Analysts believe the worldwide LCD market is worth $70 billion, so $31 million in fines seems like a drop in the bucket and may not deter other price fixing schemes.