June 6 (Bloomberg) -- Samsung Electronics Co., the world’s largest maker of televisions and flat-screen panels, was accused in a lawsuit filed by electronics retailer BrandsMart USA Inc. of conspiring to artificially inflate the prices of liquid- crystal displays.
The companies formed an “international cartel” to restrict production of LCD panels used in televisions, mobile phones and computer monitors from 1996 to 2006, according to the complaint by Interbond Corporation of America, which does business as BrandsMart USA.
“The conspiracy affected billions of dollars of commerce throughout the United States,” Interbond said in the complaint filed June 3 in federal court in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Fifteen companies, plus units of some of them, are named as defendants in the lawsuit by Hollywood, Florida-based Interbond.
At least 22 display-industry executives have been criminally charged in a U.S. probe into LCD price fixing. Eight companies have also been charged in the investigation which has netted more than $890 million in criminal fines, according to the Justice Department.
Adam Yates, a U.S. spokesman for Suwon, South Korea-based Samsung, didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment.
The LCD manufacturers held what they called “crystal meetings” between high- and mid-level executives monthly and sometimes quarterly in which they would agree to price and supply controls, according to Interbond’s complaint. The Japanese companies initiated the meetings and then brought the South Korean and Taiwanese producers into the conspiracy when they entered the market, Interbond said.
Brandsmart operates 11 electronics warehouse-style discount stores in Florida and Georgia.
The case is Interbond Corporation of America v. AU Optronics Corp., 11-cv-61264, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Florida (Ft. Lauderdale).
--With assistance from Karen Gullo in San Francisco. Editors: Michael Hytha, Joe Schneider
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