Did you buy an laptop, monitor or TV from late 2001 to 2006? You probably were thinking you got hosed on the price. Guess what? You were right. The FBI just busted a major conspiracy among LCD manufacturers to fix the price of the screen tech.
AU Optronics Corporation, the largest Taiwanese producer and seller of LCD panels, and a couple of former executives were sentenced earlier for their role in the conspiracy to screw you over. The company had to fork over $500 Million in damages, and the executives each got three years in a federal pound-me-in-the-ass-prison.
And is this the only company that got busted? Nope! This is corporation number eight. The FBI and the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division underwent a joint effort to uncover this worldwide conspiracy, and they’ve been knocking them down one by one.
It started just a few days after Nine-Eleven. A number of top executives of Asian manufacturers of LCDs met in a hotel room in Taiwan. They struck a bargain – fix the prices of LCDs in the United States and elsewhere.
Across monthly meetings, the group swapped information on production, distribution and sales of laptops, monitors, TVs and other contraptions that used LCD panels. And then they agreed on prices to sell to the manufacturers of those items that used LCD panels. AU Optronics regularly sent information to their Houston branch so that they could enforce the price fixing in the United States.
The result? Artificially inflated prices for laptops, TVs, monitors, etc.
They got weirded out when the FBI started investigating price-fixing into the dynamic random access memory (DRAM) industry. So they started sending underlings and moved their meetings to public places, making it more difficult for surveillance to listen in, and they would stop meeting in groups, but passed messages in one-on-one meetings, keeping all communications outside of the company non-digital.
Along with the prison sentences and hefty fine, the corporation will also be sanctioned — they were “ordered to implement an internal compliance program, hire an independent corporate compliance monitor, and take out ads in U.S. and Taiwanese newspapers publicizing the criminal sanctions taken against it.”
Question: Were you one of the ones screwed by this? I know my parents were.