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FTC warns conglomerates against price-fixing

Korean companies  fined over 2 trillion won  for global cartelism


Korea’s Fair Trade Commission said on Tuesday that cartelism among industry peers will bring nothing but harsh penalties for executives found guilty of price-fixing in global markets.

An FTC official said that cartelism is illegal in any country, adding that even the temptation of price collusion to reap short-term profit is not worth it, as anybody participating in such activity will end up either with large fines or in prison in the long-run.

There have been cases in the U.S. where executives of Samsung Electronics and Hynix went to jail for price-fixing, the official pointed out.

In 2006, executives of Samsung Electronics and Hynix were indicted by the U.S. grand jury for their alleged chip price-fixing schemes, according to media reports.

Korea’s antitrust agency found that Korean companies had been fined 1.7 trillion won ($1.49 billion) for price manipulation in the U.S. market and 700 billion won in Europe, amounting to a total of 2.4 trillion won over the last five years.

Samsung SDI and LG Display were fined 21 billion won in total in Japan in 2009. Samsung SDI was again caught in the latest case in which it was fined 36 billion won in the U.S. in 2011.

The U.S., above all other countries, implements the toughest measures against cartelism, with the U.S. Department of Justice having oversight and jurisdiction over the matter.

The U.S.’ maximum penalty for executives involved in price-fixing is 10 years in prison. However, an average of two to three years has mostly been given out so far, the official noted.

Europe, on the other hand, fines companies up to 30 percent of sales gained through collusion, the highest among advanced economies.

Korea, in most cases, has only fined up to 10 percent, like Japan, rarely sending violators to jail. Korea’s FTC has the jurisdiction, but it needs to hand over the case to the prosecutors for indictment.

Korea has been strengthening its law against price fixing since 2000, the official noted, amid a worldwide movement to strictly deal with corporate cartels as global markets get more integrated.

The FTC, jointly with Japan’s Fair Trade Commission, gave a seminar for Japan-based Korean enterprises in Tokyo on Tuesday in an effort to help companies better understand regional laws on cartelism.

By Park Hyong-ki (hkp@heraldcorp.com)
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