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AUO, LG Display, Toshiba Will Settle LCD Case, Lawyer Say

AU Optronics Corp. (2409), LG Display Co. (066570) and Toshiba Corp. (6502) agreed to pay $543.5 million to resolve allegations they conspired to fix prices of flat-screen panels used in TVs and computer monitors.

Money from the settlement will be available to consumers in 24 states who overpaid for electronics because of the alleged price-fixing, said San Francisco attorney Joseph Alioto, co-lead counsel representing screen purchasers suing the companies.

The manufacturers will also pay $27.5 million in civil penalties to eight states, bringing the total to $571 million, he said without specifying how much each will pay. The companies confirmed a settlement agreement was reached.

“That’s what they agreed to, that’s what we’ve agreed to,” Alioto said yesterday in a phone interview. A court filing seeking approval of the settlement will be filed today in federal court in San Francisco, he said.

Toshiba will pay $21 million if the settlement is approved by the court, Keisuke Oomori, a spokesman for the Tokyo-based company, said by phone today.

“Toshiba denies any wrongdoing on its part in the LCD business, and we entered settlement to avoid further expense and the distraction of protracted litigation,” Oomori said.

AU Optronics has already made sufficient provisions for the settlement and expects no material impact on its operations or finances, the Hsinchu, Taiwan-based company said in an exchange filing today. Claire Ohm, a spokeswoman for Seoul-based LG Display (034220), confirmed that a settlement had been reached and declined further comment in an e-mail.

Record Recovery

Combined with an earlier settlement with other panel makers for $538.5 million, approved yesterday by a federal judge, the cash settlement of more than $1 billion sets a record for recovery in a class action, or group, lawsuit over price-fixing, Alioto said.

A U.S. Justice Department investigation that led to guilty pleas by LG Display, Chunghwa Picture Tubes (2475) Ltd. and Sharp Corp. (6753) preceded civil lawsuits filed in federal court in San Francisco. The companies agreed in 2008 and 2009 to pay $585 million in criminal fines, the U.S. said.

The companies are alleged to have fixed prices for the screens, driving up prices from 1999 to 2006, according to the class-action lawsuit filed in 2007.

The case is In RE TFT-LCD Antitrust Litigation, 07-01827, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).

To contact the reporter on this story: Karen Gullo in San Francisco at kgullo@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net

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