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Samsung guilty of international conspiracy

A mighty smack on the bottom with a whopping £171m fine

Samsung and its US subsidiary, Samsung Semiconductor, have agreed to pay a $300m (£171m) fine for participating in an "international conspiracy" to fix prices on DRAM (dynamic RAM).

Samsung's fine is the second largest criminal antitrust fine in US history and the largest criminal fine since 1999.

Resolving the investigation was "paramount" to Samsung, said Chris Goodhart, director of marketing communications. "Samsung is strongly committed to fair competition and ethical practices and forbids anticompetitive behaviour.” Goodhart claims that the settlement will not affect Samsung's day-to-day operations.

Between April 1999 and June 2002, the South Korean company and its US subsidiary conspired with other DRAM manufacturers to fix the prices given to PC and server manufacturers. Computer makers affected by the price-fixing scheme were Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Apple, IBM and Gateway.

Samsung is charged with contributing to the conspiracy by communicating with competitors about the prices of DRAM to be sold to some customers and then agreeing to charge the fixed prices.

Samsung has agreed to cooperate with the US Department of Justice in its continuing investigation of other DRAM producers.

To date, three semiconductor companies and five people have been charged in the DOJ's ongoing investigation and so far they have collected more than $646m (£369m) in fines.

In May 2005, South Korean manufacturer, Hynix Semiconductor, was sentenced to pay a $185m (£105m) fine. In October 2004, German manufacturer, Infineon Technologies, was fined $160million (£91m).

In December 2004, four Infineon executives pleaded guilty to the DRAM price fixing conspiracy. The employees served prison terms ranging from four to six months and each paid a $250,000 (£142,000) fine.

In December 2003, Alfred Censullo, a regional sales manager with Micron Technology, was charged with obstruction of justice. Censullo pleaded guilty and said he withheld and altered documents related to a grand jury subpoena served on Micron in June 2002. Censullo was sentenced to serve six months of home detention.


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