BrandsMart Sues Panel Makers

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Fort Lauderdale, Fla. - Discount CE and appliance dealer BrandsMart USA is suing 15 Asian manufacturers for fixing LCD panel prices.

The suit, filed here last week 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, Tatung and various divisions.

The suit is based on recent price-fixing prosecutions by the U.S. Justice Department, which said it has obtained 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 federal 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 pleading guilty.

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


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