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AU Optronics’ Leung Gets 2-Year Sentence for Price-Fixing

April 29 (Bloomberg) -- AU Optronics Corp. executive Steven Leung was sentenced to two years in prison and fined $50,000 for participating in a conspiracy to fix prices of liquid-crystal display panels used in computers.

U.S. District Judge Susan Illston in San Francisco imposed the sentence today, saying Leung took part in a “serious, far-reaching conspiracy” that had “substantial consequences to the U.S. market.”

A jury in December convicted Leung, an executive at the company’s desktop-display unit, after 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.

Leung, a U.S. citizen who has a home in his native Taiwan, was responsible for the AU Optronics division that sold panels to Dell Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co., prosecutors said. They sought a 30-month sentence. Leung’s attorneys asked for one year in prison.

He organized and coordinated so-called “crystal meetings” among LCD competitors during which they would agree on the prices they would charge.

About $2.3 billion in U.S. commerce was affected by the conspiracy, Heather Tewksbury, a Justice Department attorney, said at the hearing.

Earlier Convictions

AU Optronics, its vice chairman and a senior vice president were convicted last year of participating in a global conspiracy from 2001 to 2006 amid an oversupply that pushed prices down by 40 percent.

Illston fined the Hsinchu, Taiwan-based company $500 million, one of the largest fines ever imposed for U.S. antitrust violations. AUO was the only LCD maker charged with price-fixing by the U.S. to take its case to trial. Since 2008, rivals including LG Display Co., Chunghwa Picture Tubes, Chi Mei Optoelectronics Corp. and Sharp Corp. agreed to plead guilty and pay a total of more than $890 million in fines.

AU Optronics and its executives are appealing the convictions. Leung has been working for the company in the U.S. during the pendency of the case, his lawyers said in a court filing.

Dennis Cashman, Leung’s attorney, didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment about the sentence.

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 federal court at kgullo@bloomberg.net

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

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