AUO Executive Acquitted in LCD Price-Fixing Criminal Prosecution

On Oct. 15, 2013, following a three-week trial in the Northern District of California, a jury found AU Optronics executive Richard Bai not guilty of charges that he engaged in price fixing of Thin Film Transistor-Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) panels. The Department of Justice had contended that Bai, who headed AUO’s notebook sales division and negotiated prices with major U.S. buyers, used the prices set between AUO and other LCD manufacturers to instruct his subordinates what to charge for laptop displays each month. The DOJ also introduced evidence that Bai had attended one of these collusive meetings in person.

Bai’s acquittal is the latest result in the DOJ’s prosecution of individuals following a series of criminal indictments against AUO and a number of its executives for participation in the conspiracy. Earlier, in March 2012, the DOJ secured convictions against AUO and high-level executives Hsuan Bin Chen (AUO’s former vice chairman) and Hui Hsiung (AUO’s former vice president). On Dec. 5, 2013, the 9th Circuit granted Chen and Hsiung’s motion for bail pending appeal, noting that although it was expressing no opinion as to the ultimate merits or outcome of the appeal, “the defendants have raised at least one ‘fairly debatable, or fairly doubtful’ question of law or fact.” U.S.A. v. Hsiung, Case No. 12-10492, Docket No. 84 (9th Cir. Dec. 5, 2013). Steven Leung, who headed AUO’s desktop monitor sales and attended more than a dozen price-fixing meetings, was also convicted in December 2012. At the March 2012 trial, however, the jury acquitted Lai-Juh Chen, AUO’s former President, and Hubert Lee, AUO’s former senior desktop group manager. These acquittals, coupled with Bai’s acquittal, may embolden some targets to resist accepting plea deals and instead have their cases tried to a jury.