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AUO Executive Found Guilty in LCD Price-Fixing Case

Dec. 19 (Bloomberg) -- AU Optronics Corp. executive Steven Leung was found guilty by a U.S. jury in a liquid-crystal display criminal price-fixing case.

A federal jury in San Francisco convicted Leung, an executive at the company’s desktop-display unit, after a few hours of deliberation yesterday. During a three-week trial, prosecutors said Leung was a key part of a price-fixing conspiracy involving AU Optronics, Taiwan’s largest LCD maker, and other display manufacturers from 2002 to 2006.

AU Optronics, its vice chairman and a senior vice president were convicted by a jury in March, and the Hsinchu, Taiwan-based company was ordered to pay $500 million, one of the largest fines ever imposed for U.S. antitrust violations, the Justice Department said yesterday in an e-mail. The convictions are being appealed. The jury in the earlier trial deadlocked over Leung’s verdict, leading to a new trial.

Leung and other executives convened at Tapei hotels and other locations in Taiwan at so-called “Crystal Meetings,” where they agreed to fix prices charged to U.S. customers such as Apple Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co., prosecutors said. AU Optronics was the only LCD maker charged with price-fixing by the U.S. to take its case to trial.

Guilty Pleas

Since 2008, eight companies, including LG Display Co., Chunghwa Picture Tubes, Chi Mei Optoelectronics Corp. and Sharp Corp., agreed to plead guilty and pay more than $1.4 billion in fines. Twenty-two executives have been charged and 13 have pleaded guilty or been convicted and sentenced to prison, the Justice Department said. Seven defendants are fugitives.

“This international price-fixing conspiracy impacted countless American consumers by raising the price of computer monitors, notebooks and televisions containing LCD panels,” Scott D. Hammond, deputy assistant attorney general of the Antitrust Division’s criminal enforcement program, said in an e-mail.

Leung faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine. Dara Cashman, an attorney for Leung, declined to comment on the verdict.

The case is U.S. v. Lin, 3:09-cr-00110, 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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