Samsung executives plead guilty to price-fixing
Three executives from South Korea's Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. have pleaded guilty to fixing the price of computer memory chips, the U.S. Justice Department said Wednesday.
The executives each have agreed to pay a fine of $250,000 US, spend at least seven months in jail and co-operate with U.S. investigators.
"These pleas should send a clear message that we will hold accountable all conspirators, whether domestic or foreign, that harm American consumers through their illegal conduct," Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said in a statement, according to the Associated Press.
A federal judge in San Francisco must approve the plea bargains.
Samsung is the world's largest maker of dynamic random access memory (DRAM) chips, which are widely used for storing and retrieving information in computers and electronic devices.
Pleading guilty are Sun Woo Lee, senior manager of DRAM sales for Samsung; Yeongho Kang, associate director of DRAM marketing for Samsung's U.S. subsidiary; and Young Woo Lee, sales director for the company's German subsidiary.
Samsung said in a statement Wednesday that the company was "strongly committed to fair competition and ethical practices and forbids anti-competitive behaviour."
The guilty pleas were just the latest to come out of a long U.S. investigation of price-fixing in the computer chip market between 1999 and 2002.
So far, the U.S. Justice Department has levied more than $731 million US in fines and charged against 12 individuals and four companies, including Samsung, Elpida Memory Inc., Infineon Technologies AG and Hynix Semiconductor Inc.
Prosecutors say the global conspiracy drove up the price of DRAM chips, affecting companies such as Dell Inc., Compaq Computer Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co., Apple Computer Inc. and International Business Machines Corp.