N.Y. official claims LCD suppliers fixed prices

Mon, 08/09/2010 - 8:10am
Michael Virtanen, The Associated Press

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) – New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo on Friday sued several major suppliers of liquid-crystal display screens used in computers, televisions and cell phones, claiming buyers paid extra because of a decade of price fixing.

Some of the companies settled earlier, similar federal charges.

The suit filed in state court in Manhattan seeks damages and restitution to state and local governments, along with penalties for actions from 1996 to 2006 by companies in Japan, Korea and Taiwan.

Defendants are Samsung Electronics, Sharp, Toshiba, Hitachi Displays, LG Display, AU Optronics, Chi Mei, CMO Japan and U.S. affiliates. They are accused of selling display screens at illegally fixed prices to companies including Dell and IBM – vendors that sold computers to public entities in New York, including the state government, counties, municipalities, colleges, hospitals, transit agencies and fire departments.

Cuomo claims the cartel dominated the $70 billion market and top officials from the companies met regularly.

"As a result, hard-pressed New York cities, towns, schools and hospitals spent hundreds of millions of dollars on LCD screens affected by the illegal conspiracy. My office is bringing this case to get those illegal overcharges back," he said.

Damages are in the tens of millions of dollars, Cuomo spokesman Matt Glazer said.

Many cartel members and executives have pleaded guilty to federal criminal antitrust violations and paid more than $890 million in fines, according to the suit.

"The state purchasers on whose behalf this action is brought – and the taxpayers whose dollars financed those purchases – have suffered substantial damages stemming from defendants' unlawful conspiracy," the suit claimed.

Under state antitrust laws, the attorney general's office requested treble damages, civil penalties, costs and "other equitable relief for the harm inflicted."

Samsung, Toshiba and Hitachi declined to make any immediate comment. Calls and e-mails to the other companies were not immediately returned Friday.

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