AMD, NVidia Subpoenaed in Justice Dept. Investigation

UPDATE 2:45 pm December 1, 2006: A spokesperson with the US Dept. of Justice this afternoon confirmed to BetaNews the existence of an investigation into possible antitrust and anti-competitive practices in the graphics card industry. That statement is important, because some companies involved in the graphics component industry are not card producers - case in point, Intel, which may not be a party if the phraseology is accurate.

The spokesperson added that the DOJ is not willing to say how many companies are actually involved in the investigation, leaving open the possibility that other companies -- perhaps much smaller producers, perhaps suppliers to ATI and nVidia -- may be party to present or futute subpoenas. Beyond that, the spokesperson could give no further comment, nor has the DOJ scheduled any formal statement on the matter at present.

In connection with what the two companies are only describing today as an investigation into potential antitrust violations, graphics processor producer nVidia and AMD -– the new parent of processor company ATI –- announced they have received subpoenas from the US Dept. of Justice.

The DOJ is apparently requesting documents from both companies, though the nature of those documents has not been discussed.

For its part, AMD officially declined further comment on the matter beyond reiterating the substance of its existing statement today, and nVidia has yet to issue further clarification. However, a representative of the Justice Dept. told BetaNews this afternoon that further details could be forthcoming today.

In recent months, the DOJ has been successfully prosecuting cases against manufacturers of DRAM and, more recently, SRAM for collusion and price-fixing violations.

Last month, the former vice president of sales for DRAM producer Elpida Memory, D. James Sogas, pled guilty to charges of conspiracy to fix prices, agreeing to serve seven months in prison and pay $250,000 in fines. Sogas’ was the latest conviction among 17 officials with four companies -– Samsung, Hynix Semiconductor, and Micron Technologies –- whose collective fines now total $731 million.

Whether the DOJ’s new investigation into possible antitrust violations among graphics card manufacturers approaches the scale of its memory price-fixing case, has not yet been ascertained. Intel – which, though not a participant in the graphics card market, is the leading producer by quantity of integrated graphics components for PCs – has not indicated it is part of this investigation.

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