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Samsung exec pleads guilty to price fixing

DRAM price-fixing scandal continues

An executive at Samsung Electronics has agreed to plead guilty to charges that he took part in a conspiracy to fix prices for memory chips bought by Dell, HP and other PC vendors, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) said Thursday.

Il Ung Kim, a South Korean citizen who has been vice president of marketing for the memory division, agreed to pay a $250,000 fine and to serve 14 months in jail. If a judge approves the deal in a hearing on 25 April, the punishment would be the longest imprisonment ever assigned to a foreign defendant charged with price fixing in this country, the DOJ said.

Kim is the sixth Samsung executive to plead guilty in a scheme by several semiconductor manufacturers to set high prices for DRAM (dynamic RAM) chips, which are used to provide high-speed data storage for PCs, handsets, mobile phones, routers, digital cameras, TVs, set-top boxes, gaming consoles and digital music players. DRAM manufacturers sold $28.7 billion of the chips in 2006, the DOJ said.

DOJ prosecutors have charged 18 individuals and four companies in their criminal antitrust lawsuit, saying they formed a cartel to suppress competition through fixing prices for DRAM chips purchased by certain PC and server manufacturers. So far, the charges have lead to 15 convictions and $730 million in court-imposed fines for the actions.


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