The U.S. Department of Justice said Tuesday that Japanese company Hitachi Displays ( HIT) will plead guilty and pay a $31 million fine related to price-fixing for LCD panels sold to computer maker Dell ( DELL).

The case involves Thin Film Transistor-Liquid Crystal Display panels sold for use in computer monitors and notebook computers between April 1, 2001 and March 31, 2004. "Hitachi joins three other multinational companies who have admitted to their involvement in fixing prices for LCD panels sold to U.S. companies and that have already paid criminal fines totaling more than $585 million," said Scott D. Hammond, acting assistant attorney General in charge of the department's antitrust division, in a prepared statement. "This case should send a strong message to multinational companies operating in the United States that when it comes to enforcing the U.S. antitrust laws, we mean business."

According to the Justice Department, Hitachi is accused of the following:
  • Participating in bilateral meetings, conversations and communications in Japan, Korea and the United States to discuss the prices of TFT-LCD to be sold to Dell;
  • Agreeing, during those bilateral meetings, conversations and communications, to charge prices of TFT-LCD to be sold to Dell at certain predetermined levels;
  • Issuing price quotations in accordance with the agreements reached;
  • Exchanging information on sales of TFT-LCD sold to Dell, for the purpose of monitoring and enforcing adherence to the agreed-upon prices.
  • Other companies that have entered pleas include LG Display, which pleaded guilty to participating in a worldwide conspiracy and was slapped with a $300 million criminal fine; Sharp, which pleaded guilty to participating in three separate conspiracies to fix the prices of TFT-LCD sold to Dell, Apple ( AAPL) and Motorola ( MOT) and was sentenced to pay a $120 million criminal fine; and Chunghwa Picture Tubes, which pleaded guilty in the same worldwide conspiracy as LG and was sentenced to pay a $65 million criminal fine.

    Despite the fine, Hitachi shares were mirroring a rally in the broader market Tuesday and recently were up 5.2% to $25.35.