RealTime IT News

Samsung Exec Pleads Guilty in DRAM Probe

The U.S. government's investigation of price-fixing in the Dynamic Random Access Memory  industry has netted another Samsung executive.

Young Hwan Park, currently president of Samsung Electronics' U.S. subsidiary, Samsung Semiconductor, has agreed to plead guilty, serve jail time in the U.S. and pay a fine for his participation in a global conspiracy to fix DRAM prices, the Department of Justice (DoJ) announced today. At the time of the price-fixing, Park was vice president of sales at Korea-based Samsung Electronics.

DRAM is a common semiconductor technology for high-speed storage and information retrieval for PCs, laptops, servers, printers and several other digital devices. In its release the DoJ said DRAM sales in the U.S. in 2004 totaled $7.4 billion.

The one-count felony charge filed today in San Francisco, stated that Park conspired with unnamed employees from other memory makers to fix the price of DRAM sold to certain OEMs on or about April 1, 2001, to on or about June 15, 2002.

The DoJ said the violation directly affected sales to U.S.-based computer makers Dell , HP , Compaq (since acquired by HP), IBM , Apple  and Gateway .

Park is the fifth Samsung executive to agree to a prison term in the DRAM investigation.

"This latest plea underscores our resolve to hold responsible those who target U.S. businesses and consumers with price-fixing schemes," said Thomas O. Barnett, assistant attorney general in charge of the DoJ's antitrust division, in a statement. "Individuals who choose to engage in price fixing are on notice of the consequences of their illegal actions -- criminal fines and prison time."

Four companies and 18 individuals have been charged in the DoJ's and FBI's DRAM investigation, which has resulted in fines of over $730 million.

In October, two former Samsung officials and a former Hynix executive were charged in the DoJ's ongoing investigation.

The probe has already resulted in Samsung, Hynix, Japan-based Elpida and Germany-based Infineon pleading guilty and paying $729 million in criminal fines.

In addition, 13 former executives from the four companies and a former executive from U.S.-based Micron have pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges. All have been fined and sentenced to prison terms.