LG, Samsung, Philips Sued by Illinois for Price Fixing

Samsung Electronics Co. (005930), LG Electronics Inc. (066570) and Philips Electronics North American Corp. were sued by Illinois over alleged price fixing, based on claims they inflated costs for televisions and computer monitors.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed the complaint yesterday in state court in Chicago. The lawsuit, which also names Panasonic Corp. (6752), Hitachi Ltd. (6501) and Toshiba Corp. (6502), claims the companies agreed to fix the prices of, and limit production of, cathode-ray tubes from March 1, 1995, through at least Nov. 25, 2007, according to the filing.

The cathode-ray tubes are used in TVs and computer monitors, and a portion of the inflated prices was passed on to customers in Illinois, according to the complaint. The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages and penalties for the alleged overcharges.

High-ranking executives at the companies “met quarterly to enter long-term price and production agreements and to enforce the price-fixing agreements by resolving disputes amongst the conspirators,” according to the complaint. Meetings took place in countries including China, Japan, South Korea and the U.K., and the companies in attendance communicated the agreements to the companies that were absent, according to the complaint.

Apple, Dell

Customers using CRTs included Apple Inc., Dell Inc. (DELL), Hewlett-Packard Co. (HPQ) and International Business Machines Corp., the complaint said. Sales of CRTs during this period created billions of dollars in profits for the companies involved, according to the filing.

Samsung Display Device Co. pleaded guilty and agreed to pay a $32 million fine for its role in fixing CRT prices and reducing CRT output, according to the complaint. The company admitted to fixing prices, decreasing output and sharing confidential information with other defendants, according to the complaint.

Jason Kim, a Seoul-based spokesman for Samsung Electronics, said the company doesn’t comment on pending legal issues. Ken Hong, a Seoul-based spokesman for LG, said the company didn’t have an immediate comment and was looking into the matter.

Atsushi Hinoki, a Tokyo-based spokesman for Panasonic, declined to comment on pending lawsuit. Mikito Takeya, a Tokyo- based spokesman for Hitachi, declined to comment, saying the company hasn’t received the complaint. Toshiba spokesman Atsushi Ido declined to comment.

Philips Electronics North American is a unit of Amsterdam- based Royal Philips Electronics NV. Amy Shanler, a company spokeswoman, had no immediate comment on the lawsuit.

The case is Illinois v. Hitachi Ltd., 12-CH-35208, Illinois Circuit Court of Cook County, Chancery Division (Chicago).

To contact the reporters on this story: Joel Rosenblatt in San Francisco at jrosenblatt@bloomberg.net; Andrew Harris in Chicago at aharris16@bloomberg.net

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

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