A federal grand jury in San Francisco returned an indictment against a former executive of a Taiwan thin-film transistor liquid crystal display (TFT-LCD) producer for participating in a global conspiracy to fix prices of TFT-LCD panels, the Department of Justice announced last week.
The indictment, returned in U.S. District Court in San Francisco last Thursday, alleges that Hsin-Tsung Wang participated in a conspiracy to fix the prices of TFT-LCD panels sold worldwide. Wang, a resident of Taiwan and the former vice president of sales and marketing of Chi Mei Optoelectronics Corporation, is charged with participating in the conspiracy from at least as early as September 14, 2001, and continuing at least until December 1, 2006.
However, the fact that the government did not charge Mr. Wang until now conveys the inference that perhaps the government did not have enough evidence to indict Mr. Wang until recently. Most likely, an individual that has already been indicted decided to work with the government in exchange for a lesser sentence, and in doing so, attempted to blame others in the alleged conspiracy.
TFT-LCD panels are used in computer monitors and notebooks, televisions, mobile phones and other electronic devices. By the end of the alleged conspiracy period, the worldwide market for TFT-LCD was valued at $70 billion. Companies directly affected by the LCD price-fixing conspiracy include some of the largest computer and television manufacturers in the world, including Apple, Dell, and Hewlett Packard.
According to the one-count felony charge, Wang and co-conspirators allegedly carried out the conspiracy by agreeing to fix prices of TFT-LCD panels during secret meetings and issuing price quotations in accordance with the agreements reached. As a part of the conspiracy, Wang is also alleged to have exchanged information on sales of TFT-LCD panels for the purpose of monitoring and enforcing adherence to the agreed-upon prices.
Including this filing, 20 executives and eight companies have been charged in the Department’s ongoing investigation into price fixing in the LCD industry. As a result of this investigation, to date, more than $890 million in criminal fines have been obtained.
Wang is charged with violating the Sherman Act, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine for individuals. The maximum fine may be increased to twice the gain derived from the crime or twice the loss suffered by the victims if either of those amounts is greater than the statutory maximum fine.
The Sherman Act was promulgated in response to antitrust violations and it’s goal is to protect a free market. However, the government seems to pick and choose which industries to target and only does so when the violation is obvious.
Douglas McNabb and other members of the firm practice and write extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, Interpol Litigation, International Extradition and OFAC Litigation.
The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at email@example.com or at one of the offices listed above.