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$585 million LCD price-fixing fine

Sharp, LG and Chunghwa of Taiwan agree to guilty plea in anti-trust settlement.

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By Terry Frieden, CNN justice producer

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Three major electronics manufacturers have agreed to plead guilty to a price-fixing conspiracy and pay $585 million in criminal fines for their roles in the pricing of LCD display panels, the Justice Department said Wednesday.

The department announced the plea agreement following a settlement with Sharp Corp. of Japan; LG Display Co. (LPL) of South Korea and Chunghwa Picture Tubes of Taiwan.

The plea deals were filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, California, and announced by Thomas Barnett, Assistant Attorney General for Antitrust at the Justice Department in Washington.

"These price-fixing conspiracies affected millions of American consumers who use computers, cell phones and numerous other household electronics every day," said Barnett. He declined to estimate losses stemming from the price fixing, but said he expected to provide some measure of the damages when the corporations are sentenced.

The Justice Department said LG Display Company, previously LG Philips, will pay by far the largest fine - $400 million, the second highest criminal fine ever imposed for price-fixing. The firm agreed to plead guilty to participating in a conspiracy from 2001 to 2006 to set the price of LCD panels worldwide.

Chunghwa will pay a $65 million fine for participating with LG and other unnamed co-conspirators during the five-year period.

Sharp agreed to pay a $120 million fine for three separate conspiracies with unnamed partners who sold LCD panels with artificially inflated prices to Dell (DELL, Fortune 500) for computer monitors and laptops, Motorola (MOT, Fortune 500) for panels in Razr mobile phones and Apple (AAPL, Fortune 500) for panels used in iPod portable music players.

Barnett said only the three corporations are charged, but stressed the investigation is continuing and did not rule out possible charges against individuals from the three firms or from other firms. If charged and convicted, individuals could face a sentence of up to 10 years.

Justice Department officials said Sharp reported $6.8 billion last year in revenue from LCD sales out of $34 billion in total revenue. LG Display Co. reported $15.3 billion in revenue last year. Chunghwa reported $4.8 billion in revenue. The worldwide LCD market is estimated at $70 billion annually To top of page

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