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BrandsMart Sues LCD Panel Makers

6/20/2011 12:01:00 AM Eastern

FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. — Discount CE and
appliance dealer BrandsMart USA is suing 15
Asian manufacturers for fixing LCD display prices
who have to respond by June 24.

The suit, filed here earlier this month in a federal
district court under the chain’s corporate name Interbond,
accuses Epson, Hitachi, LG, NEC, Samsung,
Sanyo, Sharp, Toshiba and other suppliers of
forming an international cartel that conspired to “fix,
raise, stabilize and maintain” panel prices, affecting
billions of dollars of U.S. commerce.

The other defendants include Au Optronics, Chi
Mei, CMO, Chunghwa, Hannstar, Mitsui and Tatung,
plus various subsidiaries.

The suit is based on recent price-fixing prosecutions
by the U.S. Justice Department, which said
it has netted more than $890 million in fines from
eight of the LCD producers. The group includes
LG, whose $400 million penalty is among the largest
criminal fines ever imposed by the agency.

More recently, Justice Department actions led to
the indictments of AU Optronics and HannStar Display
for participating in the conspiracy, and nine cartel
executives including the CEO of Chungwha and
the president of Chi Mei were sentenced to prison
terms of up to 14 months after entering guilty pleas.

Privately held BrandsMart, which operates nine
superstores in Southeast Florida and Atlanta, is
seeking damages for panel overpayments during
the 10-year period. The suit covers all products
with LCD panels sold by the retailer, including TVs,
computers and wireless handsets, court documents
show.