Thu, Mar 15, 2012 - Page 1 News List

AUO to appeal US jury’s price-fixing verdict

By Lisa Wang  /  Staff Reporter

AUO chairman Lee Kuen-yao yesterday said the company would appeal a US jury’s verdict that found AUO and two of its executives guilty of price-fixing.

Photo: Taipei Times

AU Optronics Corp (AUO, 友達光電) yesterday said it would appeal a US jury’s verdict that found the nation’s No. 2 LCD panel maker and two of its executives guilty of price-fixing.

The company said it also planned to appeal any penalty from a US district court, which is expected to make a judgement in the next few months following the jury’s decision. A final court ruling could take another year, AUO said.

“We exchanged information, but we did not participate in a conspiracy to fix prices,” AUO chairman Lee Kuen-yao (李焜耀) told a media briefing yesterday.

AUO shares fell 3.15 percent to close at NT$15.35 yesterday after the verdict.

AUO said it would continue to evaluate the possibility of allocating more provisions for the price-fixing lawsuit. The company set aside NT$3.1 billion (US$105 million) last quarter for potential damages stemming from the US case.

The court would make a decision on the fine in accordance with AUO’s LCD business in the US, it said. Over the past few years, LCD panels exports to the US have accounted for between 20 percent and 30 percent of the company’s annual revenues.

In that period, the Taiwanese panel maker has made US$15 billion in provisions for price-fixing probes in the US and in Europe.

In 2009, US prosecutors accused AUO’s US subsidiary and five high-ranking officials and board members of conspiring with other LCD panel manufacturers to fix prices of panels for PCs and other devices.

The jury said on Tuesday that AUO vice chairman Chen Hsuan-bin (陳炫彬) and director Hsiung Hui (熊暉) were guilty of being involved in price-fixing.

Former AUO president Chen Lai-juh (陳來助) and company official Hubert Lee (李燦榮) were found not guilty, while the jury was unable to reach a decision on AUO official Steven Leung (粱兆龍), according to AUO’s statement.

AUO is the only company -under investigation for conspiring with other LCD panel suppliers to fix the prices of flat panels from 2001 to 2006 that did not plead guilty.

South Korea’s LG Display Co and Taiwanese panel suppliers Chimei Innolux Corp (奇美電子), Chunghwa Picture Tubes Ltd (中華映管) and HannStar Corp (瀚宇彩晶) have already pleaded guilty to price--fixing, while Samsung Electronics Co made a deal in the early stages of the probe to escape prosecution.

Price-fixing carries a maximum penalty of a US$1 million fine and 10 years in prison, according to a Bloomberg report. The government can seek damages of as much as three times the amount the -company gained from price-fixing.

The LCD panel companies involved in the price-fixing probe have suffered a total loss of US$500 million, AUO said yesterday.

Lee Kuen-yao said the government has been very supportive.

Yesterday, Premier Sean Chen (陳冲) said the government planned to help AUO using administrative channels, Central News Agency reported.

As the US justice system is independent from the country’s administrative system, Chen said, the government could only offer an opinion on the AUO case through the US Department of Justice’s “friend of the court” mechanism, the report said.

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