Hitachi this afternoon has agreed to pay $31 million in fines for its role in a price fixing scheme involving LCD display panels. Specifically, the company admitted fault in conspiring to set its own prices independently of the market between April 2001 and March 2004 on screens sold to Dell for use in desktop monitors and notebook computers. Hitachi has also agreed to cooperate with the DOJ's ongoing investigation.

The plea just is the latest in a slew from several Asian firms in the past few months. Chungwa, LG and Sharp have themselves already paid $585 million in fines for similar activities between 2001 and 2006 that helped keep prices for HDTVs and other displays high - with LG taking the biggest hit at $400 million. Sadly, the plea agreements don't include restitution for Dell or any other affected companies, but they can file civil lawsuits seeking damages under antitrust laws.