LCD makers on hook for $553 million in price-fixing settlement

Seven LCD manufacturers are paying big bucks as part of a settlement that had accused them of colluding with one another to fix pricing on LCD panels.

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Seven LCD manufacturer including Samsung and Sharp this month agreed to pay $553 million to settle lawsuits that claimed the companies were colluding with one another to fix the prices of their panels for use in consumer electronics.

Legal documents filed last week, and picked up by Reuters, show that the collected fines total $553 million between the companies involved, and that said companies will be setting up antitrust compliance programs as part of the deal. Of that sum, about $501 million is going towards a refund program for consumers, and about $37 million is being doled out to governments and others involved in the form of legal damages.

The original complaints alleged that the companies were working together with one another to create an international cartel to set and control pricing of LCD panels. This particular settlement is to "indirect" purchasers who bought products with those panels, along with eight U.S. states where they were sold.

Samsung is paying out the most of the companies involved, with a $240 million share of the settlement. It's followed by Sharp at $115.5 million, Chimei InnoLux at $110.3 million, Hitachi Displays at $39 million, Hannstar Display at $25.7 million, Chunghwa Picture Tubes at $5.3 million, and Epson Imaging Devices at $2.9 million. Not included on the settlement list is AU Optronics Corp., Toshiba, or LG Display, Reuters notes.

The settlement follows one from earlier this month aimed at so-called "direct" buyers who were the victims of price-fixing on products like TVs and PCs with LCD panels between 2001 and 2006. That particular suit resulted in a settlement of $388 million, split between the various companies involved.

This new settlement is one of the largest yet among similar cases. A little more than a year ago, many of the same manufacturers were targeted by the European Union and fined $856 million. Like the direct buyer settlement, that investigation took aim at LCD panels made between October 2001 and February 2006.

Samsung's share in the LCD market is expected to expand in 2012 and beyond with its buying up of the other half of S-LCD, the joint venture it had with Sony. That deal, which was announced yesterday, is valued at about $940 million and will go into effect next month.

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