Another One Bites the Dust

The U.S. Justice Department announced yesterday that the long arm of the law has reached out and grabbed another miscreant. The guilty party this time was a fourth executive from Chi Mei Optoelectronics (CMO) — which has since merged with Innolux and TPO to become Chimei Innolux (CMI). The charge was price fixing in the LCD flat panel market, in violation of the U.S. Sherman Act.

The executive has entered a guilty plea, and the felony charge comes with more than just a slap on the wrist. He personally will pay a fine of $35,000 and will serve five years in jail. This brings the scorecard totals to 19 executives and eight companies found guilty of price fixing, with a total of $890 million assessed in criminal fines. Even for an industry as large as LCDs, this is not chicken feed.

Whether or not this will deter others from price fixing in this viciously competitive market segment remains to be seen, but this has to be viewed as a victory for law enforcement, for LCD television manufacturers, and for consumers as well.