- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 1, 2006

Four executives of a Korean company that manufactures random access memory programs for computers have agreed to plead guilty and serve jail time in the United States for participating in a global conspiracy to fix prices, the Justice Department said yesterday.

The executives — top officials at Hynix Semiconductor Inc. — were identified as D.S. Kim, general manager for worldwide sales and marketing; C.K. Chung, director of global strategic account sales; K.C. Suh, senior manager for memory product marketing; and C.Y. Choi, general manager for marketing and sales support.

Including yesterday’s charges, department officials said four companies and nine persons have been charged in the case, and fines totaling more than $731 million have resulted from an ongoing investigation.

“We strive to preserve the integrity of our free-market economy,” said Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales. “Individuals who defraud American businesses and consumers by participating in international price-fixing conspiracies will be prosecuted and sent to prison, no matter where they live or where they commit the crime.”

The four executives, according to the department, participated in the conspiracy while they worked for Hynix or its subsidiaries in the United States and Europe.

Kim will serve eight months, Chun seven months, Suh six months and Choi five months. Each agreed to pay a $250,000 fine and cooperate in an investigation of the industry by the department’s antitrust division. In agreeing to plead guilty, the executives have agreed not to contest the jurisdiction of the United States, so extradition is not required.

“Prison time for price-fixers is the most potent deterrent to illegal cartel activity,” said Assistant Attorney General Thomas O. Barnett, who heads the department’s antitrust division.

The executives participated in the production and sale of dynamic random access memory, DRAM, the most commonly used semiconductor memory product. It is used in items such as personal computers, personal digital assistants, modems and digital cameras.

DRAM sales in the U.S. totaled about $7.7 billion in 2004.

At various times between April 1999 and June 2002, the charges say, the executives conspired with unnamed employees from other memory makers to fix the prices of DRAM sold to certain computer and server manufacturers in the U.S. The charges said the conspiracy directly affected sales to Dell Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co., Compaq Computer Corp., IBM Corp., Apple Computer Inc. and Gateway Inc.

The four executives make up the second wave of people to agree to jail sentences in the department’s ongoing investigation. In December 2004, four Infineon executives pleaded guilty to the DRAM price-fixing conspiracy, served jail terms ranging from four to six months and were fined $250,000.

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