By Dan Levine
SAN FRANCISCO, March 1 (Reuters) - A U.S. jury began deliberations on Thursday in a criminal antitrust case against AU Optronics Corp, in which the Taiwan-based electronics company is accused of fixing prices in the liquid crystal display market.
The trial in a San Francisco federal court lasted several weeks.
U.S. prosecutors alleged executives met over 60 times at luxury hotels to fix prices of LCD panels, a conspiracy that illegally cost the U.S. economy billions of dollars.
Several other companies, including LG Electronics Inc , have already pleaded guilty in the LCD probe, while Samsung Electronics Co Ltd cut an early deal to avoid prosecution.
However, AU Optronics and five of its current and former executives - including Lai-Juh Chen, the former chief executive who is still a top executive at the company - pleaded not guilty. If convicted, the executives could face prison, while the company could be subject to hundreds of millions of dollars in fines.
A lawyer for AU Optronics argued earlier in the trial that the company “competed fiercely” and the mere exchange of information between companies is not illegal.
The criminal trial began in early January and prosecutors presented several witnesses. The company and its executives, however, called only one expert witness before resting their case, according to one defense attorney involved in the proceedings.
AU’s market capitalization is roughly $4.7 billion.
The case in U.S. District Court, Northern District of California is United States v. Hsuan Bin Chen et al, 09-cr-00110. (Reporting By Dan Levine; editing by Gerald E. McCormick and Andre Grenon)