On Sept. 20, 2012, a court sentenced AU Optronics, a Taiwanese manufacturer of thin-film transistor liquid crystal display (TFT-LCD) panels, and its U.S. subsidiary to pay a $500 million criminal fine for its participation in a five-year conspiracy to fix the prices of TFT-LCD panels sold worldwide. At trial the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) sought a fine above the Sherman Act maximum of $100 million under an alternative fine provision, which allows for imposition of a fine up to ?twice the gross gain or twice the gross loss? of the conspiratorial conduct. A jury found that the company derived gains of at least $500 million from the conspiracy, potentially subjecting it to a criminal fine of $1 billion (which was the amount DOJ recommended the court impose). The $500 million fine matches the largest fine ever imposed against a company for violating U.S. antitrust laws. The court also placed the company on probation for three years, and required it to adopt an antitrust compliance program and appoint an independent corporate compliance monitor. In addition, two Taiwanese executives were sentenced to serve three years in prison and pay $200,000 criminal fines. AU Optronics was the only company to challenge the cartel charges resulting from DOJ?s TFT-LCD investigation. Seven other companies pleaded guilty and were sentenced to pay criminal fines totaling more than $890 million.
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$500 million fine imposed in landmark international cartel case
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