Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum said on Tuesday he is suing the world's biggest makers of liquid crystal display screens for engaging in a conspiracy at the highest level to fix prices.
The lawsuit, a civil action to be filed in a California federal court, alleges the defendants conspired to prevent competition and to increase prices for TFT-LCD panels, the most common form of LCD panels used in desktop monitors, laptop screens, flat-panel televisions and other electronic devices.
McCollum's announcement came days after New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo filed a similar lawsuit on Friday, alleging a decade of price fixing by major Japanese, South Korean and Taiwanese LCD makers and by their U.S. units.
In a statement, McCollum, who like Cuomo in running for governor, said records subpoenaed by his office indicated the defendants organized the conspiracy at the highest level of their organizations in various secret meetings and telephone conversations over a period of years.
This massive conspiracy allegedly resulted in artificially and illegally inflated prices of certain LCD panels and the products that contain them at the expense of Floridians and governmental entities, McCollum said.
Among the defendants are well-known international LCD makers such as Samsung Electronics Co Ltd, AU Optronics Corp, Hitachi Ltd, LG Display Co, Sharp Corp and Toshiba Corp, the Florida attorney general's office said.
It noted that some of the defendants and their employees had already been indicted by the U.S. Department of Justice and had paid over $890 million in criminal fines.
The Florida attorney general's lawsuit argues the companies violated the Florida Antitrust Act, the Sherman Act, and the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act.
The state's antitrust laws allow fines of $1 million per corporate violation. The antitrust laws further provide for damages up to three times the amount lost due to the unlawful conduct.
(Reporting by Paschal Fletcher; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)