LCD Price-Fixing Ends With Historic Settlement

fromKQED

A federal judge in San Francisco has given preliminary approval to a multi-million dollar settlement in a class action lawsuit over the cost of LCD screens and monitors. The plaintiffs claim that companies selling liquid crystal displays during the 1990s and 2000s set prices artificially high. Once the judge grants final approval in the price fixing case, consumers will be able to collect.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

In San Francisco today, a federal judge gave preliminary approval to a multimillion dollar settlement. It comes in response to a class action lawsuit over the cost of LCD computer and television screens. The deal, once it's finalized, will be the largest settlement ever in a class action case about price-fixing.

From member station KQED, Aarti Shahani explains.

AARTI SHAHANI, BYLINE: Plaintiffs claim that companies selling liquid crystal displays during the 1990s through 2006 set prices artificially high. Toshiba, LG and AU Optronics moved to settle just weeks before trial.

In district court today, Judge Susan Illston asked if there were any objections to the terms of the LCD settlement. Two dozen lawyers were in the room and not one raised a hand. Illston joked, ah, now we're all hand-in-hand, step in step.

Craig Corbitt is lead co-counsel for the plaintiffs.

CRAIG CORBITT: There was no oppositions to the motion, which was the first time that's ever happened in the five or six years this case has been going on.

SHAHANI: The total deal involves ten Asia-based companies and over one billion dollars in damages. Corbitt says the big sum should teach them a lesson.

CORBITT: For foreign companies who may not have been as finely tuned to price-fixing, and maybe there was more of a culture of getting together and meeting about prices and so forth, that we'll see less of that going forward.

SHAHANI: Attorneys for the defendants in court today declined to comment. But during the case, companies admitted that they held so-called crystal meetings in hotels and bars in Taiwan, to set the price of LCD screens. Toshiba was not part of those meetings and is responsible for just $21 million of the total payout.

Still, Adam Miller with the California Attorney General's office, says Toshiba is equally guilty.

ADAM MILLER, ATTORNEY GENERAL'S OFFICE, CALIFORNIA: Under the law, if they participated in the global conspiracy, they're jointly and severally liable for all of the damages.

SHAHANI: The civil suit follows a Justice Department investigation that resulted in criminal prosecutions of top executives. Once the LCD settlement is finalized in November, consumers should be able to collect cash.

For NPR News, I'm Aarti Shahani in San Francisco.

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