By Dan Levine
(Reuters) - Japan's Toshiba Corp conspired to fix prices in the liquid crystal display market and is liable for $87 million in damages, a jury in northern California decided.
Customers brought a civil class action lawsuit against Toshiba and other LCD producers, alleging anticompetitive practices. Most other defendants settled the case, while Toshiba decided to take it to trial in San Francisco federal court.
Toshiba must pay $70 million to consumers who bought finished products, and $17 million to manufacturers that used LCD panels, according to a court document filed on Tuesday.
The company said in a statement that it did not act illegally in the LCD market, and that it would pursue "all available legal avenues" to correct the verdict.
"While Toshiba appreciates the jury's time and effort, Toshiba believes that the jury's verdict is in error as to the finding of wrongdoing," the company said.
The Taiwanese manufacturer AU Optronics was convicted in March on criminal charges related to the LCD price-fixing scheme. U.S. prosecutors accused AUO executives of meeting more than 60 times with competitors at luxury hotels to fix prices of LCD panels, saying the conspiracy had cost the U.S. economy billions of dollars.
Several other LCD manufacturers settled criminal charges. Toshiba was never indicted.
"We are very pleased the jury found in favor of the plaintiffs and found that Toshiba violated the law, particularly in light of the government's decision not to criminally prosecute Toshiba for its misconduct," said Richard Heimann, co-lead counsel for the plaintiffs.
The civil case in U.S. District Court, Northern District of California is In Re: TFT-LCD (Flat Panel) Antitrust Litigation, MDL No. 1827.
(Reporting by Dan Levine in Chicago; Editing by Dale Hudson and M.D. Golan)
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