Europe levies €649 million in fines, mostly against Taiwanese companies. Hundreds of millions more are at stake
By YU-TZU CHIU / DECEMBER 2010
Photo: Imaginechina/AP Photo
15 December 2010—Taiwanese manufacturers of liquid crystal display (LCD) panels are now under pressure following the European Commission’s announcement last week that five Asian electronics companies would be fined €649 million (US $866 million) for operating a price-fixing cartel that harmed European buyers of television sets, computers, mobile phones, and other products that use the key LCD component.
Korea’s Samsung Electronics, the world’s largest flat-panel maker, received full immunity from fines under the EC’s leniency program, as it was the first to provide information about the cartel to government investigators. The commission accused the six companies of fixing prices on LCD panels between October 2001 and February 2006. The cartel members met around 60 times, mainly in hotels in Taiwan, for what they called "the Crystal meetings."
Among the five affected firms, Taiwan-based Chimei Innolux Corp. received the heaviest fine of €300 million ($401 million). The EC fined South Korea’s LG Display €215 million, Taiwan’s AU Optronics Corp. (AUO) €117 million euros, Taiwan’s Chunghwa Picture Tubes (CPT) €9 million, and Taiwan’s HannStar €8 million. The EC says it took the companies’ sales revenue from panels into account when setting the fines, which were reduced in exchange for the companies’ cooperation: LG by 50 percent, AUO by 20 percent, and CPT by 5 percent.