“Defendants cannot credibly ask this court to treat them more favorably than their coconspirators who accepted responsibility and provided substantial assistance to the investigation,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Peter Huston argued.
Prosecutors say the conspiracy began on Sept. 14, 2001, in a luxury hotel in Taipei, Taiwan, and ended when the FBI raided AU Optronics‘ Houston office in December 2006. In between, executives from the companies met more than 60 times in luxury hotels throughout Taiwan to set prices for the world market, racking up $72 billion in sales during that time.
Prosecutors say the executive dubbed the gatherings “crystal meetings,” which were attended at first by top company officials and later by middle managers. Prosecutors allege the top executives began sending their underlings to the meetings after important customers began suspecting the manufacturers were scheming to fix prices. The underlings also began conducting a series of one-on-one meetings rather than gathering all at once after the DOJ announced it was prosecuting makers of certain types of computer memory chips.
Nonetheless, prosecutors said they compiled overwhelming evidence through emails and documents detailing decisions made at the meetings. They argue for the harsh penalties to punish what they describe as AU Optronics‘ brazen behavior and to send a message to what they say is a growing problem.
“In the past dozen years, new cartels have continued to spring up in spite of the many fines of more than $100 million imposed in cartel cases,” the prosecutors wrote. “The continuing discovery of new cartels throughout the world is evidence that the fines imposed to date _ as large as they are _ have failed to provide adequate deterrence and that potential cartelists continue to see fines as an acceptable cost of doing business.”
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