Three major LCD (liquid crystal display) panel makers have agreed to pay $585 million in fines for price-fixing, according to the US Department of Justice (DOJ).
The companies, Sharp of Japan, LG Display of South Korea and Chunghwa Picture Tubes of Taiwan, agreed to plead guilty to charges and pay the fines to end the probe into their activities.
They also agreed to cooperate in the DOJ's continuing antitrust investigation into LCD price-fixing.
The penalty couldn't come at a worse time for the companies. A glut of LCD panels globally has depressed prices and the global financial crisis is hurting demand for a range of items LCD panels are used in, including the screens of computer monitors, laptops, LCD-TVs and mobile phones.
LG Display has agreed to pay $400 million in fines, the second highest criminal fine ever imposed by the DOJ's Antitrust Division, the agency said in a statement. Sharp will pay $120 million as part of its agreement, while Chunghwa Picture Tubes will pay $65 million.
The DOJ said US consumers who buy mobile phones, computers and other household electronics have been most affected by the price-fixing conspiracy, while affected companies include Apple, Dell and Motorola.
The LCD makers fixed prices from a time period between April, 2001 to near the end of 2006, according to the DOJ.