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March 23, 2006 – Samsung Electronics has been fined $300 million in the second largest antitrust settlement in U.S. history. The company was tried and found guilty of fixing the prices of dynamic random access memory (DRAM), a high-speed memory chip found in most personal computers. On top of the corporate fine, three Samsung executives from South Korea will serve 7-8 months of jail time in the United States for their involvement in the scheme.
The men were identified as Lee Sun-woo, Samsung’s senior manager of DRAM sales; Kang Yeong-ho, associate director of DRAM marketing; and Lee Young-woo, Samsung’s sales director for its German branch. The executives are charged with conspiring with competitors to fix prices when sold to certain customers, including Dell, Compaq, IBM, Apple, Gateway and HP.
The investigation, which began in 2002, looked into e-mails, phone calls, and conversations between the executives and companies. The price-fixing cartel started in 1999. Samsung’s jailed executives will pay a combined $250,000 in fines, along with the large corporate fine the company paid last November.
Samsung is the world’s No. 1 manufacturer of DRAM. The second largest producer is Hynix, which was also involved in the scandal. Just weeks ago, four Hynix executives were sentenced to 5-8 months in prison. That company paid a $185 million fine for its misconduct. The U.S. Department of Justice is continuing its investigation of the DRAM industry.