Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Jury Finds Toshiba Conspired to Fix Prices for TFT-LCD Panels

This posting was written by Jeffrey May, Editor of CCH Trade Regulation Reporter.

A federal jury in San Francisco on July 3 found Toshiba Corporation liable for participating in a global price fixing conspiracy in the market for Thin Film Transistor Liquid Crystal Display (TFT-LCD) panels. An $87 million verdict in favor of direct purchasers of TFT-LCD panels was entered against the company.

The private class action followed a Department of Justice Antitrust Division investigation into the industry. A number of TFT-LCD producers have pleaded guilty to federal antitrust charges, and many have settled the class action claims. The U.S. government has not charged Toshiba with any antitrust violations. TFT-LCD panels are used in a number of products, including but not limited to computer monitors, laptop computers, and televisions.

Toshiba issued a statement on July 4, saying that it “believes that the jury’s verdict is in error as to the finding of wrongdoing on Toshiba’s part.” The company has consistently maintained that there has been “no illegal activity on its part in the LCD business in the United States.” The statement noted that, given credits for settlements by other defendants, Toshiba did not expect to pay any damages as a result of the verdict, even after trebling, which would amount to $261 million.

According to Richard Heimann of Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP, co-lead trial counsel for plaintiffs, settlements had been reached with ten other defendant manufacturers for a combined value of $430 million. Toshiba was the only defendant to proceed to trial.

A special verdict asked the jury to unanimously determine whether the plaintiffs proved by a preponderance of the evidence:

• That Toshiba knowingly participated in a conspiracy to fix prices of TFT-LCD panels;

• That the conspiracy involved TFT-LCD panels and/or finished products (notebook computers, computer monitors and televisions containing TFT-LCD panels) imported into the United States;

• That the conspiracy produced substantial intended effects in the United States;

• That the conspiracy involved conduct which had a direct, substantial, and reasonably foreseeable effect on trade or commerce in the United States; and

• That members of the two separate classes of direct purchasers were injured as a result of the conspiracy and the amount of damages suffered as a result of that injury.
The case is In re: TFT-LCD (Flat Panel) Antitrust Litigation, MDL No. 1827.

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