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Hitachi cops to Dell LCD pricing conspiracy

'Bilateral meetings'

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A Hitachi subsidiary has agreed to a $31m fine for its role in an industry-wide conspiracy to fix the prices of monitors sold to computer and handset manufacturers.

Tuesday's guilty plea by Hitachi Displays came the same day the US Justice Department filed a one-count indictment that claimed the Japanese monitor maker actively sought to drive up the price of thin film transistor liquid crystal display monitors sold to Dell. The company admitted its officials attended "bilateral meetings" to discuss and agree upon prices of LCD monitors sold to Dell.

Hitachi becomes the fourth maker of LCD monitors to cop to price fixing charges. LG Display in December agreed to pay $400m to settle similar charges, while Sharp has coughed up $120m after also pleading guilty. Chunghwa Picture Tubes, meanwhile, has been ordered to pay $65m.

Four individuals working for the companies have also received prison sentences or fines for their roles in the conspiracy, which also forced Apple and Motorola to pay prices above market rates for monitors used in their products. In all, the government's price-fixing investigation has netted more than $585m.

The case is the result of a joint investigation conducted by the San Francisco field offices for the Justice Department's antitrust division and the FBI. ®

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