Did you buy a computer notebook, computer monitor, or big-screen TV anytime from late 2001 to 2006? If you did, you probably paid too much for it, according to the FBI.
The FBI issued a released Friday morning about an international criminal conspiracy to fix the prices of the LCD (liquid crystal display) panels used in computer notebooks, monitors, and flat-screen TVs.
Recently, AU Optronics Corportation, the largest Taiwanese producer and seller of LCD panels, and two of its former top executives were sentenced for their roles in this conspiracy.
The company was ordered to pay a $500 million criminal fine, and the executives each received three years in federal prison.
Anatomy of a conspiracy
A few days after the terrorist attacks of September 11th, top-level executives from a number of Asian manufacturers of LCD panels met secretly in a Taiwan hotel room, and agreed to a plan to fix the prices of LCDs in the U.S. and elsewhere, according to the FBI.
Investigators say group members then sold their products at these prices to some of the world’s largest technology companies.
That resulted in inflated prices for consumers, the FBI said.
In addition to the extraordinary criminal fine levied on AU Optronics and the sentencing of two former executives, the company was also ordered to implement an internal compliance program, hire an independent corporate compliance monitor, according to the FBI.
AU Optronics was also ordered to take out ads in U.S. and Taiwanese newspapers publicizing the criminal sanctions taken against it.