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$860 Million In Fines Handed Out For LCD Price-Fixing

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the hope-it-was-worth-it dept.

Businesses 151

eldavojohn writes "Six companies have pleaded guilty to worldwide price fixing of Thin-Film Transistor Liquid Crystal Displays from Sept. 14, 2001, to Dec. 1, 2006. For violating the Sherman Act, the companies have agreed to pay criminal fines of over $860 Million. In addition, nine executives have been charged in the scandal. The pricing scam affected some of the largest companies at the time, including Apple, HP and Dell. (If you bought a TFT-LCD from them in that time frame, you may be one of the victimized consumers.) From the DOJ release, 'According to the charge, Chi Mei carried out the conspiracy by agreeing during meetings, conversations and communications to charge prices of TFT-LCD panels at certain pre-determined levels and issuing price quotations in accordance with the agreements reached. As a part of the conspiracy, Chi Mei exchanged information on sales of TFT-LCD panels for the purpose of monitoring and enforcing adherence to the agreed-upon prices.'"

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ok what? (1)

Jarik C-Bol (894741) | more than 4 years ago | (#30410268)

so what exactly happened? the article is long on confusion and short on explanations.

Re:ok what? (4, Informative)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 4 years ago | (#30410276)

so what exactly happened? the article is long on confusion and short on explanations.

Someone got really greedy. Someone else caught them and is now going to use that fact to advance their political career. Some stockholders will suffer and a handful of executives will spend a few years in white collar resort prison.

Re:ok what? (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30410304)

You forgot the part where the wronged consumers get justice in the form of a $2 class action settlement check.

Re:ok what? (4, Insightful)

kpainter (901021) | more than 4 years ago | (#30410422)

You forgot the part where the wronged consumers get justice in the form of a $2 class action settlement check.

YOU forgot the part where the wronged consumers get a coupon worth $2 off on their next purchase as their settlement.

Re:ok what? (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 4 years ago | (#30410552)

What's even worse are the cases where they get a free pass by paying the class action settlement, like the Google book deal. At least in a slightly less world you'd get your two dollar coupon but at least they'd have to stop any further infringements, not carry on breaking the law with the court's blessing. Current copyright laws are awful but one private company essentially ceasing it is even more awful.

Re:ok what? (5, Informative)

RandomUsername99 (574692) | more than 4 years ago | (#30410636)

This article is of course for the criminal action and not any civil suits. Naturally, there is a proposed class action in the US for those who were victimized:

http://www.lieffcabraser.com/antitrust/lcd-antitrust.htm [lieffcabraser.com]

The suit is for:
All persons and entities who, between January 1, 1996 and December 11, 2006, directly purchased a TFT-LCD Product in the United States from any defendant or any subsidiary or affiliate thereof, or any co-conspirator. Excluded from the Class are defendants, their parent companies, subsidiaries and affiliates, any co-conspirators, all governmental entities, and any judges or justices assigned to hear any aspect of this action.

From what it says the motion to dismiss based on lack of evidence has been thrown out. Will they settle? Will their lawyers eventually be able to squish it like a little bug? What will the payout be? That's anybody's guess. Might be worth getting on board if you were a firm that bought a ton of LCDs in that time though... I would imagine that if there was a payout, it would be per infraction rather than per customer, right? I admit that this is well outside my area of expertise.

Re:ok what? (2, Insightful)

fyngyrz (762201) | more than 4 years ago | (#30410930)

YOU forgot the part where the wronged consumers get a coupon worth $2 off on their next purchase as their settlement.

Yeah, and you forgot the part where the manufacturer tacks $2.20 onto the price to cover the $2 coupon.

Re:ok what? (1)

shentino (1139071) | more than 4 years ago | (#30411112)

Which makes me think that they ought to rework how they figure the damages.

I think that 2 bucks is quite a bit less than the damages suffered per person.

Re:ok what? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30410308)

Leave it up to the conniving ching-chongs to try to "Art of War" everybody else. They must've learned enough English to hire Jewish Lawyers.

Re:ok what? (1)

fractoid (1076465) | more than 4 years ago | (#30410638)

Someone got really greedy. Someone else caught them and is now going to use that fact to advance their political career. Some stockholders will suffer and a handful of executives will spend a few years in white collar resort prison.

You mean one with conjugal visits?

Re:ok what? (5, Funny)

Straterra (1045994) | more than 4 years ago | (#30410860)

You mean one with conjugal visits?

Conjugal visits? Mmmm. Not that I know of. Y'know, minimum-security prison is no picnic. I have a client in there right now. He says the trick is: kick someone's ass the first day, or become someone's bitch. Then everything will be all right. W-Why do you ask, anyway?

Re:ok what? (1)

Dyinobal (1427207) | more than 4 years ago | (#30410278)

860mill fine for how many millions in profits? Guess everything is fine so long as big brother gets a cut.

Re:ok what? (5, Informative)

zmaragdus (1686342) | more than 4 years ago | (#30410338)

A little addendum: the final fine may vary from the stated amount. According to the document, the maximum fine may be increased to twice the amount illegally gained by the company or twice the amount of loss suffered by the victims. While 860 million USD seems a bit low, I expect the final number to be higher. (Or the given number could be a sort of "plea bargain" amount. I'm not sure.)

Mod parent up. (0, Redundant)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 4 years ago | (#30410376)

Mod parent up.

Re:ok what? (4, Insightful)

eihab (823648) | more than 4 years ago | (#30410524)

Well let's see. The Taiwanese LCD producer Chi Mei Optoelectronics (CMO) agreed to pay $220 million for violations over 5 years (2001-2006) which comes up to $44 million per year of violations.

CMO is a publicly traded company, for 2009 their net sales up to November has been almost $30 billion dollars [cmo.com.tw] .

CMO's market cap [reuters.com] is $150 billion dollars.

I think it's safe to say that $44 million dollars a year is a drop in the bucket for them.

The other $640 million is divided across 5 other companies so far, which sets them about $128 million dollars each, or $25.6 million dollars a year.

Justice is served!

Re:ok what? (1)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | more than 4 years ago | (#30410846)

Justice is served!

And the price is right. For some at least.

Re:ok what? (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30410870)

*150 billion new Taiwan dollards equals about 4 billion dollars
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Taiwan_dollar

Re:ok what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30411018)

Uh on Reuters that market cap is NT$, which a quick google shows as New Taiwan Dollars which are approximately 32 to 1 US dollar, making the company's market cap around $4.5b US. I'm guessing all your other numbers need to be revised downwards as well.

Re:ok what? (-1)

electrosoccertux (874415) | more than 4 years ago | (#30411288)

Well let's see. The Taiwanese LCD producer Chi Mei Optoelectronics (CMO) agreed to pay $220 million for violations over 5 years (2001-2006) which comes up to $44 million per year of violations.

CMO is a publicly traded company, for 2009 their net sales up to November has been almost $30 billion dollars [cmo.com.tw] .

CMO's market cap [reuters.com] is $150 billion dollars.

I think it's safe to say that $44 million dollars a year is a drop in the bucket for them.

The other $640 million is divided across 5 other companies so far, which sets them about $128 million dollars each, or $25.6 million dollars a year.

Justice is served!

Who cares?
Honestly I'm not sure I like this ruling. If the entire market can collude to get it done, then there's probably more than just a little reason for it to happen. IE, ALL producers of panels had sunk capital costs with the hope of recouping them, but weren't going to be able to.
My concern: going forward, they won't be as bold in researching, investing in, and bringing to market new technologies.
My 24" $300 8-bit P-MVA (aka NOT TN) panel I bought at least a year ago from ChiMei...is still an awesome deal and I'd buy it again.
I think there are bigger guys we should be going after than LCD Panel makers...I mean seriously. Pick on someone your own size. Like Microsoft.

Re:ok what? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30411544)

Honestly I'm not sure I like this ruling. If the entire market can collude to get it done, then there's probably more than just a little reason for it to happen. IE, ALL producers of panels had sunk capital costs with the hope of recouping them, but weren't going to be able to.

Please, Mr Corporation, rape me in the ass, please, I really really want you to!

Seriously, WTF are you smoking. Companies don't sell anything at a loss unless they're deliberately trying to undercut each other. It isn't sustainable as they'll go bankrupt obviously. I suppose you also think that the MAFIAA are only colluding because otherwise they can't recoup their costs in finding "talent" as well?

Re:ok what? (1)

Sulphur (1548251) | more than 4 years ago | (#30412676)

Shhh. Modzilla the fifteen point mod may be nearby.

Re:ok what? (1)

ArsonSmith (13997) | more than 4 years ago | (#30410852)

something about being held at gun point to buy an LCD monitor against your will or something like that.

Apple's Price Fixing (0, Troll)

ireallylovelinux (589360) | more than 4 years ago | (#30410346)

We are just going to sell displays at a higher price than everyone else.

Re:Apple's Price Fixing (0)

ExploHD (888637) | more than 4 years ago | (#30410398)

We are just going to sell displays at a higher price than everyone else.

By being involved with the price fixing, they were making that much more in profits above what the markets should of naturally been.

Re:Apple's Price Fixing (3, Informative)

AdmiralXyz (1378985) | more than 4 years ago | (#30410428)

You're misreading the summary. They weren't involved in the price fixing, they were affected by it. Apple has to pay component manufacturers just like everyone else.

Re:Apple's Price Fixing (3, Informative)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 4 years ago | (#30410440)

> By being involved with the price fixing...

Apple was one of the _victims_. The conspirators were some (all?) of the manufacurers who supply displays to Apple, Dell, and HP.

Re:Apple's Price Fixing (1)

ImYourVirus (1443523) | more than 4 years ago | (#30410664)

If they were 'victims' as you claim then why do they have to pay? I call bullshit, they were involved and 25 million a year? That's pennies for any of those companies, and that sort of 'fine' is just a slap on the wrist and they will just continue to do their part to fuck over their customers anyway they can. When they can get a fine that's in the billions for each company, they we'll talk about them learning a lesson, until then, no dice.

Onto what ksemlerK said below me, that sounds fair as well, they should have to pay a 'fine' to their customers as well, fair is fair, right?

Re:Apple's Price Fixing (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 4 years ago | (#30410802)

> If they were 'victims' as you claim then why do they have to pay?

Where does the article say anything about them having to pay?

Re:Apple's Price Fixing (2, Interesting)

AHuxley (892839) | more than 4 years ago | (#30410830)

Need a cartel to make this work. So the computer firms had to know or accept this. From a wink, nudge limited good quality supply, dont rock the boat to something more direct and personal.
Are docs floating around the computer firms stating to just sign, we need the parts now, as the tech matures we can escape this BS, or was in more an inner clique that kept it going as they where the only ones who saw the docs?

Cut a deal (2, Funny)

ksemlerK (610016) | more than 4 years ago | (#30410386)

and sell me a $50 24" wide screen monitor with a 5ms response time, and then we'll talk.

Re:Cut a deal (1)

MadnessASAP (1052274) | more than 4 years ago | (#30411488)

Deal! A resolution of 2x4 is fine right?

Re:Cut a deal (1)

Sechr Nibw (1278786) | more than 4 years ago | (#30411614)

2x4 isn't a wide resolution monitor, that's a tall resolution monitor! Sheesh, bait and switch...

Re:Cut a deal (1)

ksemlerK (610016) | more than 4 years ago | (#30411624)

I'll give you a 2x4, right your your ass. :D

Say it ain't so (2, Insightful)

future assassin (639396) | more than 4 years ago | (#30410400)

Corporations doing shyster deals to gain profits for share holders while braking laws and shafting the consumers? Good god whats next, corporation changing laws to punish consumers for using products in ways there were not designed to be used?

Hey hey there kid. That baseball is designed to be hit with our authorized bats. Using any unauthorized bat is prohibited and will be enforced by our "Good Consumer Police"

Re:Say it ain't so (1)

zmaragdus (1686342) | more than 4 years ago | (#30410438)

Well, Congress is moving towards banning the production of incandescent light bulbs in favor of compact flourescent bulbs (and LED bulbs, but they're a bit further away from practicality). Indeed, whatever will be next?

Victimized consumers may contact the DOJ... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30410420)

...if they wish to receive a tiny American flag pin*

*shipping and handling charges may apply.

I just wonder (2, Interesting)

crazybit (918023) | more than 4 years ago | (#30410446)

Which other products might have their prices controlled the same way right now?

Re:I just wonder (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 4 years ago | (#30410472)

Oil. But of course there the conspirators are governments, so it's ok.

Re:I just wonder (3, Informative)

benjamindees (441808) | more than 4 years ago | (#30410716)

Well, let's see, in the US, officially-government-sanctioned price-fixing oligopolies include oranges, almonds, cranberries, and raisins. Then of course there is anything covered by a patent. Or any resource that is mined from government leases. And then there's other industries that supply the military, such as airplanes, car companies, steel and weapons manufacturers, which are all protected and subsidized. Then you have licensed trades, electricians, plumbers, construction workers, truck-drivers and hair-stylists. And of course finally there are licensed professionals such as doctors, lawyers, nurses, and engineers. I probably missed somebody.

Re:I just wonder (3, Interesting)

mysidia (191772) | more than 4 years ago | (#30410728)

Going out on a limb... DRAM chips, SSDs, Flash memory.

I for one find it odd that old 1gb PC2700 modules are still over $30. And the price seems to be the same no matter which manufacturer you look at.

Meanwhile 8gb compact flash cards, which are oh so more expensive to manufacture than SDRAM, are $30, that is unless you want "true" compact flash which faithfully implements the true IDE standard (I.E. to use them with an IDE-CF adapter, instead of in a digital camera)... those got rebadged as "Industrial CF" and cost like $200.

Re:I just wonder (2, Informative)

benjamindees (441808) | more than 4 years ago | (#30410792)

unless you want "true" compact flash which faithfully implements the true IDE standard (I.E. to use them with an IDE-CF adapter, instead of in a digital camera)... those got rebadged as "Industrial CF" and cost like $200.

I use the $20 CF cards I find on e-bay with an IDE adapter. You might have to manually set the BIOS to recognize them, but other than that they seem to work fine.

Re:I just wonder (0)

ArsonSmith (13997) | more than 4 years ago | (#30410912)

It's all political spin.

If all prices are the same then it's collusion and price fixing
If one company has a higher price then they're gouging
If one company lowers their price then they're undercutting

You really can't win.

Re:I just wonder (1)

shentino (1139071) | more than 4 years ago | (#30411150)

Actually, you can...if you're a politician.

Re:I just wonder (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30411688)

Yay for ridiculous over simplification of the economics.

This is painfully simple to understand yet you seem to believe they're just magical terms to take away corporations' god given right to fleece every penny out of the community.

Undercutting: A company spends $200 on parts and labor, sells the product for $150; or they can employ people for minimum wage and sacrifice quality standards to actually make that price sustainable. If all the other competitors can't beat that price without sacrificing quality or features then they have been undercut. [This term is somewhat nebulous as it can be abused as an emotive response]

Gouging: Company spends $200 on parts and labor, sells at $400+. Obviously, no one in their right mind, who understands the specifications, is going to pay that so you just drown out the competition or trick customers using marketing (eg. DVDs will only look 'right' on an official Apple Cinema Display with panorama vision[TM]). In electronics, special plugs that are only available on other products that you sell are also a good way to do this, same with cars.

Price Fixing: Two or more companies spend $200 on parts and labor, they compete on price until they only sell the product at, say, $205 which isn't very profitable so they join forces to simultaneously raise their prices to $250 so you can't get out of paying the inflated price unless you just go without. It's also a great way to terminate competition since you are no longer competing with someone who operates on your terms, the MAFIAA are very big on this with the price of CDs for example.

Apple selling same LCDs FOREVER. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30410474)

Is this at all related to Apple selling the same model Cinema Displays [macrumors.com] since April, 2007? 982 days without a refresh, following an average of 230. What's going on there?

Re:Apple selling same LCDs FOREVER. (2, Informative)

onefriedrice (1171917) | more than 4 years ago | (#30410618)

Is this at all related to Apple selling the same model Cinema Displays [macrumors.com] since April, 2007? 982 days without a refresh, following an average of 230.

Maybe, only because Apple is only able to sell displays based on demand but were paying prices on the supply side that were artificially higher than demand. If the price-fixing stops (and this is a good sign that it has or will), presumably there will be more profits for Apple, Dell, HP, etc in LCD displays and we may therefore look forward to refreshed product lines. Price fixing can have far-reaching consequences in a global market.

Re:Apple selling same LCDs FOREVER. (1)

Lehk228 (705449) | more than 4 years ago | (#30410866)

it makes sense for the LCD market to stagnate a bit now. first there was the inrush as people did a lateral move from CRTs to LCD's that actually didn't look as good as the CRT, then LCD's got bigger and sharper, then after that their speed got high enough for gaming and other fast paced things to be unaffected. After that there hasn't been much to do to them so what's the need to turn out new models as often as before?

Re:Apple selling same LCDs FOREVER. (2, Insightful)

Zero_DgZ (1047348) | more than 4 years ago | (#30411214)

How about turning out some new models that are a bleeding 4:3 aspect ratio, instead of 16:9? Nowadays it seems every LCD panel in the world is a repurposed HDTV unit. Those of us who lots of coding and document work tend to prefer monitors without a squished vertical aspect and a bunch of wasted horizontal space (especially considering 100% of the universe uses 8.5x11 or A4 paper that's taller than it is wide, and document design reflects this format).

Re:Apple selling same LCDs FOREVER. (2, Informative)

HungWeiLo (250320) | more than 4 years ago | (#30411362)

The Dell LCDs at my work can rotate to a long vertical orientation.

Re:Apple selling same LCDs FOREVER. (1)

PhrstBrn (751463) | more than 4 years ago | (#30411420)

Buy a nice monitor and flip it 90 degrees. I agree, widescreen monitors are not any better for coding. However, a good sized widesceen monitor flipped 90 degree IS very nice for that purpose.. Most decent monitors come with a VESA compliant mount, so if they don't come with a rotatable stand, you can at least get an after-market stand.... or buy one that's height adjustable/rotatable.

Re:Apple selling same LCDs FOREVER. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30411512)

That's why you can rotate the LCD panel to the "portrait" orientation.
Like this:
http://www.technologybestpractices.com/images/willsmonoitors.jpg

let me guess (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30410536)

As someone who bought a Dell flat panel (for well over $100 IIRC) during that time period, all I need to do is submit my name and address, email address, two phone numbers, and other identifying information, to be entered in a database administered by only-God-knows so I'll eventually receive a check for my share of the proceeds which works out to $13.62 USD. Meanwhile plaintiff attorneys Dewey Cheatem and Howe LLP will receive 40 percent of the settlement, or $90 million. Apple, HP, Dell, and the others neither admit nor deny guilt or responsibility in the matter.

No thanks.

Re:let me guess (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30410842)

I bought two Dell 20" LCD monitors in 2004 at a cost of over $1400. Where's my money bitches?!

Re:let me guess (2, Insightful)

dotfile (536191) | more than 4 years ago | (#30410964)

$13.62? You've never actually been on the consumer end of one of these things, have you?

No, the lawyers will get 100% of the actual cash that changes hands. The "victimized consumer class" will get some bullshit "settlement" like a voucher for $50 off the list price of the next monitor they buy from the companies that did this in the first place. Of course that will work out to a much higher price than you could buy it for without said voucher... so, in effect, you get dick.

Again.

Re:let me guess (2, Interesting)

Trepidity (597) | more than 4 years ago | (#30411570)

I've gotten cash before, though usually small amounts. Back in 2004 I got a check for $9 out of some sort of music-CD price-fixing settlement.

This particular case appears not to be a class-action suit at all, though; it's a criminal investigation that imposed a fine. So there is no settlement to distribute, since it's not a civil suit with plaintiffs.

Re:let me guess (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30412444)

That is what the headline says "FINES" not settlement.

Ugh (1)

benjamindees (441808) | more than 4 years ago | (#30410562)

Summary worthless as usual. A conspiracy usually requires more than one conspirator. The company mentioned in the linked press release doesn't even seem to produce LCD screens. What are the real companies involved that I might actually care about?

In fact, that's an interesting topic of criminal law. "Conspiracy" by itself is a "group" crime (price-fixing especially). Multiple people must work together for a crime to have even occurred. One party cannot conspire by itself. We would call that "thought crime". I know the press release says otherwise, but if only one company pleads guilty to conspiracy, is it really a conspiracy? Wouldn't a judge have to reject the plea unless or until more companies were found guilty as well?

Re:Ugh (1)

Lehk228 (705449) | more than 4 years ago | (#30410826)

a company is made of n individuals and if n>1 conspiracy is possible wholly within the company.

Re:Ugh (1)

benjamindees (441808) | more than 4 years ago | (#30411012)

You think a single company can fix industry prices acting by itself?

Re:Ugh (1)

Denjiro (55957) | more than 4 years ago | (#30411168)

They can if they hold a monopoly or near monopoly on their service or good, hence why we have protections in place against monopolies abusing their position.

Re:Ugh (3, Informative)

mysidia (191772) | more than 4 years ago | (#30410884)

However, you can definitely be charged and found guilty of conspiring, even if 'other alleged parties' to the conspiracy have not yet been charged, or are still under investigation.

The companies involved will most likely all be overseas companies you don't care much about. Most of the manufacturers of the TFT screens are overseas.

The companies the average US person has heard of (such as Dell, HP, etc) who sell monitors, are OEMs. That is, the manufacturers (such as the ones who do the price fixing) supply the screen. OEMs design and build an actual monitor using the OEM'd TFT, other OEM'd parts (and parts designed by the OEM), and ship the final product.

The TFT is just one of many components required to build an LCD monitor. Another manufacturer (very possibly) makes the backlight. And yet another company might make the plastic body.

From TFA, however:

Including today's charges, as a result of this investigation, six companies have pleaded guilty or have agreed to plead guilty and have been sentenced to pay or have agreed to pay criminal fines totaling more than $860 million. Additionally, nine executives have been charged to date in the department's ongoing investigation.

Re:Ugh (1)

benjamindees (441808) | more than 4 years ago | (#30411086)

However, you can definitely be charged and found guilty of conspiring, even if 'other alleged parties' to the conspiracy have not yet been charged, or are still under investigation.

So, even though the crime of conspiracy requires multiple people working together by definition, your assertion is that a single person can be convicted of conspiracy alone. The fact that others participated is just a foregone conclusion, without them having been charged and tried? Once you've convicted a single person of conspiracy, all the other alleged conspirators could just be summarily rounded up and incarcerated? Do the other alleged conspirators have the right to defend themselves against the charge of being involved, in your opinion?

Or are you under the impression that it is possible to have a conspiracy of one? You did basically say it's possible for a single person to be convicted without even so much as an allegation that anyone else is involved. Is that really what you think?

Would you like to back up this assertion? What are you basing it on? Slashdot lawyering?

(FYI I'm perfectly aware of what goes into producing an LCD screen. I'd just like to know who the other five companies are.)

Re:Ugh (1)

mysidia (191772) | more than 4 years ago | (#30411532)

So, even though the crime of conspiracy requires multiple people working together by definition, your assertion is that a single person can be convicted of conspiracy alone.

That's right. In fact, one can be convicted of conspiracy, even when the identity of the other conspirators is unknown to prosecutors, and even when the identity is unknown to the person charged.

You could be convicted of conspiracy if you reached an agreement to commit a crime with an Anonymous coward on slashdot. Also, no overt act is required.. you don't even have to make any action towards committing the crime (necessarily) to be convicted.

Whether or not to indict or lay charges against other conspirators, so they get a trial too, is completely a matter of prosecutor discretion.

For example, if a mayor or other elected official is accused of conspiracy, prosecutors may choose to file charges against only the official.

Each conspirator charged is entitled to their own trial. Each case will go before a court at a time, and the accused will have a chance to defend themselves against the charges of conspiracy.

This is a right protected by the US constitution. You cannot be automatically convicted of a crime based on the proceeding that occured, when someone else was on trial.

The prosecution will show evidence that the person agreed with someone else to commit a crime.

The court will find them guilty or not.

It's quite possible that one person alleged to be conspiring could be acquitted of the charges, and the person they were charged with conspiring against, found guilty.

An alleged conspirator being acquitted also does not necessarily absolve the accused of any charge of guilt.

Re:Ugh (1)

YesIAmAScript (886271) | more than 4 years ago | (#30411880)

Chi Mei Optoelectronics is owned by Foxconn, who owns a ton of other stuff. They control a ton of manufacturing business and a lot of the electronic subassembly business.

Oh great (4, Insightful)

ArchieBunker (132337) | more than 4 years ago | (#30410564)

Guess who is going to pay the $860 million. Don't look forward to cheaper LCD prices anytime soon.

Re:Oh great (1)

mysidia (191772) | more than 4 years ago | (#30410914)

Clearly they misplaced the zeros when determining the fine. $860 million is a small fraction of their ill-gotten gains.

The fine should be $860 billion. And the government can earmark the money to help pay for the bank bailout and stimulus plan in the recent past.

"price fixing" on an optional item? (1)

NotQuiteReal (608241) | more than 4 years ago | (#30411242)

pfft.

There's a sucker born every minute, and a lawyer willing to take a fee for anything.

Seriously, how can you fix the price of something nobody has to buy? Sooner or later the price will come down to where it is a fair deal for the buyer.

I remember the first laptop I "wanted" was $4K USD. I didn't buy it, I didn't "need" it. The last laptop I bought was 10X better and only $400 USD, not even counting inflation. It was cheap enough to buy as a "toy".

Re:"price fixing" on an optional item? (2, Insightful)

jamonterrell (517500) | more than 4 years ago | (#30411610)

I think you're confused on what the price fixing law is about. The item does not have to be a necessity in order for them to illegally fix the price of it.

Unless of course you understand it, and you just don't agree with it... in which case you should probably make that more clear.

Cheaper than what? (1)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 4 years ago | (#30411456)

LCDs are already dirt cheap. Displays now are cheaper than I've ever seen them with any technology. I remember getting a 17" CRT monitor in 1999, and not even a high grade one, for about $200. Now that gets you a 24" LCD. That's not inflation adjusted either, tack on another $50 if you want to look at it in terms of buying power.

I fail to see what you are complaining about here. They got nailed for doing something against the law, but it isn't as though we are all sitting here desperately needing lower display prices. You can get a cheap screen, no problem.

Re:Cheaper than what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30411520)

But where these screens so cheap in 2001? Or even in 2006? Sure, they are *now*, but where they cheap *back then*?

Re:Oh great (1)

KonoWatakushi (910213) | more than 4 years ago | (#30411782)

Exactly. There is no use in fining corporations, as it only hurts their customers. The fines are nothing but a cash grab by the government, and the settlements benefit no one but the lawyers.

There need to be serious consequences for this type of thing. They should tear the responsible people limb from limb, literally.

Re:Oh great (1)

Moskit (32486) | more than 4 years ago | (#30412462)

Exactly.

This is one point that people often miss in "company has to pay" announcements.
When it a company is fined, money ultimately comes out of customers' pockets, so this does not benefit customers who are paying the second time for the same mistake! Now guess who collects the fine? Governement, as a form of a hidden tax.

It is not companies who have conspired, it is actual people working in these companies! These people (probably executive level) should pay that fine, otherwise they would not care - "company" gets all the blame, not them. Good that in that case these people are prosecuted, too.

Note to conspiracy theorists... (4, Funny)

onyxruby (118189) | more than 4 years ago | (#30410606)

This is what real conspiracies look like. Note the distinct lack of "CIA", "Masons", "NSA" or other such favorites.

Re:Note to conspiracy theorists... (1)

benjamindees (441808) | more than 4 years ago | (#30410644)

Big acrylic?

Re:Note to conspiracy theorists... (1)

AHuxley (892839) | more than 4 years ago | (#30410906)

Price fixing would be great for the CIA. All that ongoing tech/price chatter would open many to long term blackmail. The NSA could then compromise other digital products by the same firms for sale around the world.
The masons would just spike the plastics to slowly give off a cancer trigger and a nice electronic hum to keep the bottom 90% of the world in their place.

Re:Note to conspiracy theorists... (1)

ArsonSmith (13997) | more than 4 years ago | (#30410936)

"Wikipedia, the concept that persistent opinions represent facts"

Can you prove that idea wrong? There is no fact, just expected consistent observation (persistent opinion)

Re:Note to conspiracy theorists... (4, Funny)

RobVB (1566105) | more than 4 years ago | (#30410948)

The CIA is only successful if you don't know they're involved. This was a pretty successful conspiracy, and therefore you can be sure that the CIA was indeed involved!

Clearly, you have a lot to learn about conspiracies.

Re:Note to conspiracy theorists... (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 4 years ago | (#30411828)

This is what real conspiracies look like. Note the distinct lack of "CIA", "Masons", "NSA" or other such favorites.

That's only because the illuminati killed their contacts in those organizations to hide the truth.

Re:Note to conspiracy theorists... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30412390)

Oh shut the fuck up you moron! Your mama got a conspiracy to put it in your butt.

They are always doing this. Better way is to (2, Interesting)

zymano (581466) | more than 4 years ago | (#30410616)

The better way to handle this is to drop the stupid ineffective fines and threaten that their products wont be allowed to sell in the USA.

Then they wouldn't even dare try to fix prices.

5 year ban.

Re:They are always doing this. Better way is to (1)

selven (1556643) | more than 4 years ago | (#30410712)

1) Subsidiaries

If you're smart enough to close that loophole,

2) Indirect sales (A sells to B who sells into the US)

Your only choices are to prevent the company from doing anything (impossible due to jurisdiction issues) and to block all imports (the economy can survive that for about a week).

Re:They are always doing this. Better way is to (1)

mysidia (191772) | more than 4 years ago | (#30410798)

Can you imagine what would happen to prices if they did that?

First of all, in a conspiracy like this... the TFT part might no longer be available.. that would mean nobody could manufacture new monitors.

How do you feel about paying $10000 to get a 12" LCD display, due to all the main manufacturers' TFT screen material being banned?

Re:They are always doing this. Better way is to (1)

zymano (581466) | more than 4 years ago | (#30411930)

that wouldn't happen. Too many other players.

the penalty would be immense that they wouldn't do it again.

Savings (2, Interesting)

jecowa (1152159) | more than 4 years ago | (#30410732)

So how much should LCDs really cost? I want some savings on my next purchase.

Re:Savings (1)

Torodung (31985) | more than 4 years ago | (#30411048)

LCDs actually cost a buck oh-five.

--
Toro

Other co-conspirators will pay more? (3, Interesting)

nsushkin (222407) | more than 4 years ago | (#30411094)

It's interesting who Chi-Mei conspired WITH. Chi-Mei is not the best LCD manufacturer and they agreed to cooperate with DOJ. There must be other companies who Chi-Mei will bust and who will pay more. Certain Koreans, perhaps?

Victimized? (1)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 4 years ago | (#30411104)

Yes, price fixing is bad, but seriously "victimized" consumers? Yeah, they overpaid for an LCD, but they -chose- to pay that amount for an LCD. No one made them choose an LCD monitor/TV, its possible to watch TV/use a computer without an LCD display (CRT, Plasma, etc) and such. Once patents expired (or if hopefully patents are either abolished or weakened) theres nothing stopping a full-on price war where the people price fixing will lose big time.

Re:Victimized? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30411254)

Yes they did, I absolutely had to have a monitor for work. It was a condition of my employment to have a home computer, as I work remotely. I was unable to find a better deal than the one I got, and this may have been a result of price fixing. I was a victim. My monitor wasn't a luxury item I decided was worth it. It was an item I needed to make a living, and I had no choice but to pay the amount the company demanded.

Re:Victimized? (1)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 4 years ago | (#30411284)

Because we all know there aren't such a thing as CRT monitors? Seriously, I bought the one I'm using for $7 bucks many years ago, and have had others simply donated to me over the years. Monitors are dirt cheap now and there isn't anything work related (assuming a normal job) that you can't do on a CRT monitor that you can on an LCD.

Re:Victimized? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30411338)

Those come with an increased power bill too.

Re:Victimized? (1)

amRadioHed (463061) | more than 4 years ago | (#30412482)

There's a reason you can get old CRT monitors so cheap. No one wants those big clunky things.

Re:Victimized? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30411572)

How did anyone overpay? These companies grouped together to raise bargaining power... no different from labor unions, co-ops, etc. As you correctly said the purchasers voluntarily *chose* to pay those prices. The LCDs were the property of those manufactures and as such can charge whatever prices they like.

If people dislike the prices... don't pay them. The prices come down of they don't sell and competition will come in to fill that gap. If competition is unable to do so then blame government. It's its intervention in the market process that allows these companies to create cartels or gain other advantages over customers. Patents to factory regulation limits competition, limiting choices for the consumer. Ultimately government intervention changes the consumers natural power over businesses on its head leading to such abuses. An market regulated (rather then government regulated) market place empowers the consumer rather then the businesses.

Besides... in this particular case such a fine is pointless. None of those who were affected will see any of that money. The government is just looking to cash in... further destroying the market with awful intervention.

Re:Victimized? (1)

currently_awake (1248758) | more than 4 years ago | (#30411720)

yes, cellphone price fixing is bad. but consumers -chose- to pay sky high cellphone rates. no one made them... It's easier to see the crime in relation to products you think about as over priced.

Re:Victimized? (3, Insightful)

bzipitidoo (647217) | more than 4 years ago | (#30412070)

Yes, we were victimized. There's the cost of continuing to use CRTs, which was considerable. I bought my first LCD, a 1280x1024, several years ago, for $99 after a $70 rebate. And I waited for prices to go down like they do with every other consumer electronic item, and they didn't. I was baffled, but I kept waiting, knowing it had to give some time. That there was price fixing explains much. Was 2 years before I begin to see deals equivalent to the one I got.

Meantime, I paid for owning CRTs. They use more power. They took way more room in my car, forcing me to ship more of my possessions whenever I moved. I regret having paid UPS $85 to ship a 17" CRT back in 2003. I've learned a few things about moving. Best to sell your bulky possessions cheap if you can, or even abandon them if you can't. CRTs are definitely bulky. Had there been cheap LCDs in 2003, I could have saved quite a bit of money.

Re:Victimized? (1)

selven (1556643) | more than 4 years ago | (#30412616)

They were denied the ability to get a cheaper one.

Re:Victimized? (1)

David Jao (2759) | more than 4 years ago | (#30412618)

Yes, price fixing is bad, but seriously "victimized" consumers? Yeah, they overpaid for an LCD, but they -chose- to pay that amount for an LCD.

You're missing some basic knowledge of economics here. The victims are not the consumers who actually overpaid for an LCD. The victims are the potential consumers who would have bought an LCD had they been fairly priced, but who couldn't afford to pay the inflated price. This category of "lost potential purchases" is known as "deadweight loss" in economics.

Unfortunately, our legal system provides no way for the true victimized class to receive compensation.

hows the math work? (1)

joocemann (1273720) | more than 4 years ago | (#30411736)

is 860M more or less than the excess profits taken by collusion on a worldwide sales scale, for 6 years.

I have a feeling they think it was worth it. This is why business will always risk it. We don't take whats really due. All of it.

You'd not believe how CHEAP it is... (1)

MindPrison (864299) | more than 4 years ago | (#30411950)

Manufacturing a flat-screen, be it Plasma or LCD is so cheap - you probably wouldn't believe me if I told you.
But picture this:

Rewind a few years, remember when you paid 1000-3000 dollars for your 28 inch Sony Vega television set?

Today, you can grab a tv - 50 inches, way better than any projection screen or projector ever could be, for less than 800 dollars!
Back in the days, I couldn't even get a decent 26" incher for that price, why is even that possible today? Simple...look at the materials.

Your tv - is essentially not much more than 2 glass plates with small cells with either gases or liquid crystals in them, and 2 plastic plates to cover it all,
and then one graphics chip cpu-fpu-memory and all in one, plus a chip for digital tv-decoding and a tuner. These SMD components cost so little
that you could buy a burger for what it actually cost to manufacture.

The temptation to earn HEAPS of money comes from your old "hard-dying-habits" of paying a fortune for a technology that was relatively
expensive to manufacture, they where weighty, big glass screen using a lot of glass (Crt), old-school DIP/DIL discretes that takes up a lot of space.

Look at the inside of your latest flatscreen, there's a small mainboard that fills up 10 percent of the tv's size, and perhaps a PSU that fills up the next 10 percent, and the
rest is a glass surface, that's it - really. These TVs could cost 100 bucks, but they won't - as long as YOU the consumer - are used to paying 1000's of dollars, it's a no-brainer that - THAT kind of money could just land in someones pocket anyway, because - you will pay anyway.

But lets not kid ourselves - we're buying screens cheaper than ever. I'm enjoying my 800 dollar 50" incher, and 200 dollar 24" inch 1920x1200 computer screen, wow...I remember paying 1000 bucks for a screen back in the days...22 inches and "only" 1280x1024 crt...and THAT was considered discount.

Timing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30412608)

Anyone else notice this started just 3 days after 9/11? Makes me wonder if evil (read: morally challenged) people tend to think "Hey, here's a great idea for a scam... now... if only there were a perfect time for a diversion to cover my tracks..."

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