Two executives from Samsung Electronics Ltd and one exec from Hynix Semiconductor America Inc have been indicted by a federal grand jury in San Francisco for their role in a global conspiracy to fix DRAM memory prices, the Department of Justice announced.
The charges are part of a broader ongoing antitrust investigation into a price-fixing scheme that the US government claims drove up the price of DRAM chips used in PCs, cell phones, servers and other electronics.
The three executives were charged for participating in the conspiracy during 2001 and 2002.
During this time, Korean citizens Il Ung Kim and Young Bae Rha worked as Samsung’s VP of marketing and VP of sales and marketing in its memory division, while US citizen Gary Swanson was senior VP of memory sales and marketing for Hynix America.
They face up to three years in prison and fines of $350,000 each.
Among the charges against the trio were allegations that they met in person and on the phone to discuss and agree upon the prices of DRAM to be sold to certain OEMs. They agreed to raise and maintain those prices and to rig an online DRAM auction held by Compaq Computer Corp in late 2001 by submitting intentionally high prices, the government alleged.
Including yesterday’s indictments, four companies and 16 individuals have been charged and fines totaling more that $731m have resulted from the ongoing investigation. So far, it’s the second-highest tally of criminal fines the DoJ has netted from a criminal investigation into a specific industry.
Earlier this year, four additional Samsung execs and four other Hynix execs pleaded guilty for their role in the conspiracy and agree to jail terms of between five and eight months. In 2004, four execs from Infineon Technologies AG also pleaded guilty and accepted jail terms of as many as six months.