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Nokia's LCD Price-Fixing Case: Why The Wait?

By Joel Zand on December 01, 2009 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Mobile phone maker Nokia filed price fixing lawsuits in the U.S. and U.K. today, alleging that LCD and CRT manufacturers engaged in price fixing for more than a decade.

The big question, though, is why would the company wait so long to sue, particularly when the price-fixing conspiracy, according to the complaint, occurred "[f]rom at least January 1, 1996 through at least December 11, 2006"?

The answer appears to be that a number of the major screen LCD and CRT screen manufacturers named as defendants in this lawsuit plead guilty to price-fixing in cases brought by the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. The DOJ's civil suit was settled in November 2008 for $585 million in civil fines: LG paid $400M, Chungwha paid $65M, and Sharp paid $120M.

In January 2009 four executives from LCD manufacturers LG in South Korea and Chunghwa Picture Tubes in Taiwan plead guilty to criminal price fixing conspiracy charges, were sentenced to spend time in federal prison, and paid tens of thousands of dollars in criminal fines.

Nokia's suit details the executives' guilty pleas, their criminal conspiracy, and price fixing admissions that grew out of those cases, lending clout to its claims.

Overseas, the European Commission charged Philips and LG Display with price-fixing this summer, and also launched an anti-cartel probe of Taiwanese LCD makers.

"The cartel activity has been uncovered as a result of recent government investigations in the US, EU and elsewhere," Nokia's Communications Director Mark Durrant told FindLaw. "Nokia appreciates the efforts of these investigators which have made it possible for Nokia and other purchasers to seek redress for these activities."

The 'other purchasers' clearly include AT&T, which filed suit against Samsung, LG, and AU Optronics six weeks ago, as well as plaintiffs in class-action lawsuits filed in the U.S. and Canada.

The complete list of defendants that Nokia sued includes: AU Optronics Corp.; Au Optronics Corp. America, Inc.; Chunghwa Picture Tubes, Ltd.; Tatung Company; Tatung Company of America, Inc.; Seiko Epson Corp.; Epson Imaging Devices Corp.; Epson Electronics America, Inc.; Hitachi, Ltd.; Hitachi Displays, Ltd.; Hitachi Electronic Devices (USA), Inc.; LG Display Co., LTD; LG Display America, Inc.; Philips Electronics North America Corp.; Samsung Electronics, Ltd.; Samsung Semiconductor, Inc.;  Samsung Electronics America, Inc. Samsung SDI Co., Ltd.; Samsung SDI America, Inc.; Sharp Corp.; Sharp Electronics Corp.; Toshiba Corp.; Toshiba America Electronics Components, Inc.; Toshiba Mobile Display Co., Ltd.; and Toshiba America Information Systems, Inc.

You can read the allegations in Nokia's U.S. lawsuit here: 

Nokia is represented by Alston+Bird litigators in Palo Alto, CA, Atlanta, GA, and Dallas, TX.

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