Hitachi-LG execs face jail time, fines for price fixing

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Three industry executives will serve prison sentences after pleading guilty to fixing optical disk drive prices, according to the US Department of Justice. The Hitachi-LG Data Storage (HLDS) workers, Young Keun Park, Sang Hun Kim and Sik "Daniel" Hur participated in conspiratorial shenaniganry to weasel extra cash out of major computer vendors.

At various points between 2005 and 2009, the employees suppressed competition by rigging bids for optical disk drives sold to Dell and HP, in addition to fixing prices for devices sold to Microsoft. Under the plea agreement, Park and Kim will serve eight months in prison while Hur faces a lesser seven-month stint. All three have to pay a $25,000 fine.

The trio is also charged with multiple violations of the Sherman Act, which covers antitrust and anticompetitive activities. Each count carries a statutory fine of up to $1 million (more if the damages are large enough) and up to a decade behind bars. As part of their plea, Park, Kim and Hur will also assist the government with its ongoing investigation.

This marks the first ruling against individual workers, but it's the second round of charges against the joint Hitachi-LG venture. Last month, HLDS itself pleaded guilty to 14 counts of violating federal antitrust laws between June 2004 and September 2009. The company was sentenced to pay a $21.1 million fine. It will also aid the DoJ with its investigation.

"Today's plea agreements demonstrate the Antitrust Division's continued commitment to protect competition in the high tech industry," said the DoJ's Sharis Pozen. "The division will continue to pursue and prosecute those who participate in bid-rigging and price-fixing conspiracies that harm businesses and consumers in the optical disk drive industry."

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