States pursuing more litigation against memory chipmakers

July 17, 2006 – The US federal government might be done with a group of DRAM chipmakers for their alleged price-fixing practices several years ago, but for Attorneys General in 34 states the fight is just getting started.

A federal lawsuit has been filed in San Francisco, CA, against seven international DRAM chipmakers and their US subsidiaries, including Micron Technology Inc., Infineon Technologies AG, Hynix Semiconductor Inc., Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., Mosel-Vitelic Corp., Nanya Technology Corp., Elpida Memory Inc., and NEC Electronics America Inc., seeking damages against consumers in various states, as well as state and local governments.

According to the lawsuit, DRAM manufacturers regularly exchanged price information and other confidential business data in order to raise the prices that OEMs and other DRAM customers paid for the chips. The illegal collusion, in which dozens of individuals participated, continued for several years until the US Department of Justice began its criminal investigation in June 2002. Infineon, Hynix, Micron, and Samsung control roughly 70% of the U.S. market.

The US DOJ case already has elicited guilty pleas from Samsung, Hynix, Infineon, and Elpida as well as from individual executives. Total fines have approached $1 billion. Micron received immunity from criminal charges by agreeing to aid the government investigation.

“The defendants in this case conspired to rig the US market for this essential computer product, working together to keep prices artificially high. In the process, they victimized individual consumers, governmental agencies, schools and taxpayers,” stated California Attorney General Bill Lockyer. “This lawsuit seeks compensation for those victims and to ensure the defendants never again violate fundamental tenets that make our economy work properly.”


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