Samsung Guilty of Memory Price Fixing

Samsung has plead guilty to charges of price fixing computer memory and will pay a $300 million fine to settle the case, the U.S. Department of Justice said late Thursday.

The decision revolves around the company's actions from 1999 to 2002 where it colluded with other memory chipmakers to keep prices artificially high. Memory remained expensive even while the tech industry crumbled, raising eyebrows at the Justice Department and spurring an investigation in 2002.

According to Department antitrust chief Thomas Barnett, it forced at least two computer companies to raise prices on their computers, while others decided to keep prices steady yet include less memory.

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"This case demonstrates the need for vigorous antitrust enforcement in high-technology markets, which is one of the most important sectors of the American economy," Barnett said.

Samsung is the third company after Hynix and Infineon Technologies to be indicted and fined by the government. A fourth, Micron Technology, was cooperating with the Justice Department and likely would not be fined.

Thursday's decision marks another legal problem for Samsung. Last Friday, the head of the South Korean Fair Trade Commission said it was looking into investigating the company's deals with Apple to see if any anti-competitive practices took place.

A court in Seoul found two Samsung executives guilty this month of giving a favorable rate on company bonds to children of Lee Keun-hee, chairman of Samsung. Previous to that, the chairman was asked to appear at a Korean government inquiry into the dissolution of its automobile unit.

Samsung did not respond directly to the charges, however said in a statement that it "strongly supports fair competition."

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