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June 23, 2017

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It's time for AUO to face the facts in US court

Fighting alone when the whole world is against you sounds both heroic and tragic, and that's the kind of situation AU Optronics (AUO) has been in while desperately trying to vindicate itself of antitrust charges from the United States.

The liquid crystal display (LCD) panel maker has all along maintained its innocence, but everybody else named in the case has given up long ago, pleading guilty in return for lesser punishments.

AUO's peers from Taiwan, South Korea and Japan have already paid fines totaling more than US$1.4 billion for holding so-called Crystal Meetings in Taipei from 2002 to 2006 where they are said to have colluded to fix prices, and some of their executives have completed prison terms of about a year in the United States.

The U.S. authorities found AUO guilty earlier this year, imposing on it a US$500 million fine and sentencing some of its executives to prison. AUO has been appealing against the verdict.

The latest news coming out of the U.S. court is that one of the AUO defendants whose trial had been previously postponed has now been convicted and faces 10 years in prison.

It is very likely that AUO will also appeal against the latest verdict. But is that right?

The tragic irony in the case is that all these AUO executives do not seem to have a choice except the one that has been given to them by the company. They have been barred from leaving the United States for about two years and suspended from all their company duties, pending the outcome of the trial.

And chances are they will be stranded in the United States further and chances are high that they will lose the appeal and end up in jail for years. And that will spell the end of their careers.

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