Japanese firm pleads guilty to DRAM price fixing

Elpida Memory Inc. agreed to pay a fine of $84 million for its role in a DRAM price-fixing scheme.

Japanese DRAM (dynamic RAM) manufacturer Elpida Memory has agreed to plead guilty and pay a US$84 million fine for participating in an "international conspiracy" to fix DRAM prices, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced Monday.

Elpida is the fourth company to agree to plead guilty in the DOJ's ongoing investigation into DRAM price fixing between April 1999 and June 2002. Four companies and five people have been charged in the case, resulting in about US$730 million in fines, the DOJ said.

A two-count felony charge filed Monday in the U.S. District Court in San Francisco, accused Elpida of conspiring with other DRAM manufacturers to fix the prices of DRAM sold to several computer and server manufacturers, including Dell, Apple Computer, Hewlett-Packard and IBM.

In addition, Elpida conspired with a DRAM manufacturer to rig a bid for a lot sold to Sun Microsystems in March 2002, the DOJ said.

Elpida carried out the price-fixing conspiracy by participating in meetings, conversations, and communications with competitors to discuss the prices of DRAM to be sold to certain customers, the DOJ said in a press release. Elpida officials agreed to the prices they would charge for DRAM during those meetings, the DOJ said.

Under the plea agreement, which must be approved by the court, Elpida has agreed to cooperate with the government in its ongoing investigation of other DRAM producers. The DOJ will also enter into cooperation agreements with Elpida's corporate predecessors, NEC and Hitachi. The two companies established Elpida as a joint venture in November 1999, and Hitachi and NEC remain the Elpida's largest stockholders.

Elpida, in a press release, said its portion of the fine, US$9.5 million, will not change its financial forecast issued Jan. 24. The company has enough fixed reserve to cover its portion of the fine, it said. The fine includes sales activities by Hitachi and NEC before the joint venture, Elpida said.

Elpida's fine is the smallest levied against the four DRAM companies. In November 2005, Korean manufacturer Samsung Semiconductor and its parent company Samsung Electronics pleaded guilty and were sentenced to pay a US$300 million criminal fine.

In October 2004, German manufacturer Infineon Technologies pleaded guilty and was sentenced to pay a US$160 million criminal fine, and in May 2005, Korean manufacturer Hynix Semiconductor pleaded guilty and was sentenced to pay a US$185 million criminal fine.

DRAM is the most commonly used semiconductor memory product, providing high-speed storage and retrieval of electronic information for computers, telecommunication equipment, and consumer electronic devices. DRAM is used in personal computers, laptops, servers, printers, mobile phones, telecommunication hubs and routers, digital cameras, digital music players and other devices.

About US$7.7 billion worth of DRAM was sold in the U.S. in 2004, the DOJ said. Elpida is the world's fifth-largest DRAM manufacturer, according to the DOJ.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Grant Gross

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?