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LCD Price Fixers Whacked for $571 Million

(CN) - Three manufacturers left standing in the price-fixing suit over liquid-crystal display panels can settle the claims against them for $571 million, a federal judge ruled.

Claims over LCD price-fixing date back to 2007, when consumers alleged a "long-running conspiracy extending from at least Jan. 1, 1999 through at least Dec. 31, 2006, at a minimum, among defendants and their co-conspirators, the purpose and effect of which was to fix, raise, stabilize, and maintain prices for LCD panels sold indirectly to plaintiffs and the members of the other indirect-purchaser classes."

Companies such as Dell, Hewlett-Packard and Apple buy the thin-film transistor LCD panels from the manufacturers and use them in computer monitors, notebook computers and televisions. Those companies then sell the finished products to retailers such as Best Buy, Wal-Mart and Target.

In 2010, the Northern District of California granted the indirect purchaser plaintiffs class certification, certifying a nationwide class and 23 statewide classes.

The states of Arkansas, California, Florida, Michigan, Missouri, New York, West Virginia and Wisconsin filed their complaints around this time.

Samsung was among the first group of manufacturers to settle in 2012. That $538.6 million deal left claims pending against Toshiba, LG Display and AU Optronics Corporation.

On Monday, U.S. District Judge Susan Illston granted final approval to a $571 million settlement from that trio of manufacturers.

Of that amount, LG Display owes $380 million, AU Optronics owes $170 million, and Toshiba owes $21 million.

Illston noted that class counsel has received 235,808 claims for more than 10 million LCD products, as of Jan. 29, 2013.

The attorneys estimate that class members will likely receive approximately $64 per monitor or laptop computer purchased and $128 per TV purchased.

Illston called the settlement, which does not include a cy pres component, "fair, reasonable and adequate."

Illston ordered a maximum payment of three times the estimated money damages per claimant. Any residue of the settlement fund will be subject to further distribution as ordered by the court.

Members of a nationwide injunctive relief class who are not also members of any statewide monetary relief class will not receive monetary compensation.

Each settlement defendant must certify that it is complying with an antitrust compliance program in annual written reports for five years.

Class counsel will get $308.2 million, 28.5 percent of total settlement funds in the "global price-fixing conspiracy."

Specifically, Illston awarded $75 million to Zelle, Hoffman, Voelbel & Mason; $47 million to The Alioto Law Firm; and $14 million to Gray, Plant, Mooty, Mooty & Bennett, among others.

Settling states were awarded $11 million in attorneys' fees and $1.2 million in expenses.

Forty court-appointed class representatives will receive $15,000 each, and eight additional named plaintiffs will receive $7,500 apiece, the ruling states.

"In the event that a settlement does not become effective in accordance with the terms of the relevant agreement, then the judgment shall be rendered null and void and shall be vacated as to that agreement, and in such event, all orders entered and releases delivered in connection herewith shall be null and void and the parties to that agreement shall be returned to their respective positions ex ante," Illston wrote.

As part of a criminal trial, Illston ordered AU Optronics in 2012 to pay $500 million for fixing the prices of its panels.

On Wednesday, Illston filed an amended settlement-approval order.

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