Best Buy Loses LCD Price-Fixing Case Against Toshiba

Best Buy Co. convinced a federal jury in San Francisco that Taiwan’s HannStar Display Co. conspired to fixed prices for flat panels used in computers and televisions while failing to prove claims against Toshiba Corp.

The panel, which deliberated for less than a day after a six-week trial, found yesterday that the electronics retailer suffered $7 million in damages. An attorney for HannStar said Best Buy isn’t entitled to recover any money because the jury also determined that fixing of prices for liquid crystal display panels didn’t have a direct effect on trade in the U.S.

“We’re thrilled with the verdict,” HannStar’s lawyer, Robert Freitas, said after the jury was excused.

The jury cleared Tokyo-based Toshiba, finding that Best Buy didn’t prove it participated in the price-fixing conspiracy. Best Buy told the jury that it was owed as much as $700 million because price fixing drove up costs for panels.

Roman Silberfeld, Best Buy’s attorney, declined to comment on the verdict.

Best Buy’s lawsuit stemmed from a U.S. investigation of a global conspiracy to fix LCD prices. Since 2008, companies including LG Display Co., Chunghwa Picture Tubes Ltd., Chi Mei Optoelectronics Corp. and Sharp Corp. agreed to plead guilty and pay a total of more than $890 million in fines.

Toshiba wasn’t indicted in the criminal probe. The company denied fixing prices.

“Toshiba is grateful for the jury’s efforts and consideration,” the company said in an e-mailed statement. “Toshiba has consistently maintained that there was no illegal activity on its part in the LCD business in the United States, and Toshiba continues to hold that view.”

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

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