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The EU has fined DRAM manufacturers $420M USD for price fixing. The fines follow $1B USD fines against DRAM manufacturers by U.S. regulators (plus jail time) over the past decade.  (Source: Silicon Valley Blog)

Samsung received the biggest fine -- $185M USD.  (Source: Ubergizmo)

U.S. Firm Micron escaped being fined by sharing dirt on its fellow DRAM manufacturers.  (Source: Maximum PC)
EU is back at it with antitrust regulation

The European Union and its regulatory arm the European Commission have had a pretty active antitrust record of late.  First it slapped Microsoft with a pair of fines for a total of $1.4B USD.  Then it hit Intel with a single fine of $1.45B USD.  In both cases, one of the chief accusations that the American tech firms were found guilty of was price fixing -- allegedly using underhanded pricing techniques such as offering a discount to retailers who refuse to carry competitors products.

Now nine American, European, and Asian DRAM producers have been slapped collectively with $420M USD (€331M , £283.1M) in fines for allegedly engaging in price fixing.  The fine against Samsung, Hynix, Infineon, NEC, Hitachi, Mitsubishi, Toshiba, Elpida and Nanya was announced yesterday.

Of the manufacturers, Samsung received the biggest fine -- $185.4M USD (€146M).  Germany's Infineon was fined the second most, ordered to pay $72.4M USD (€57M).

According to the EU investigation, the companies engaged in a seek collusion, fixing prices of DRAM between 1998 and 2002.  A "network of contacts" carried out the pricing scheme.

All companies cooperated with the investigation, thus their total fines were reduced 10 percent.  One company -- Boise, ID-based Micron Technology -- was implicated in the investigation, but cut a deal providing information to EU investigators on the deals it and its competitors cut almost a decade before.

Micron began to provide the EU with information in 2002, but it took several years to substantiate the claims and reach a decision on fines.  EU's Competition Commissioner, Joaquin Almunia comments on Micron's cooperation, "By acknowledging their participation in a cartel the companies have allowed the Commission to bring this long-running investigation to a close and to free up resources to investigate other suspected cartels."

EU law offers among the strictest bans on business practices that inhibit competition of any industrialized nation.  Almunia says he expects the number of EU filings to rise in the near future and the process be expedited.  He states, "As the procedure is applied to new cases it is expected to speed up investigations significantly."

Samsung has been fined $90M USD by U.S. regulators for price fixing, previously.  The U.S. has aggressively pursued DRAM manufacturers, too, handing out close to $1B USD in fines over the last decade.  Some DRAM executives have also served jail time related to price fixing.



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RE: Good
By lightfoot on 5/20/2010 12:52:59 PM , Rating: 2
According to the New York Times:
quote:
The commission can levy fines of up to 10 percent of a company’s annual global sales.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/14/business/global/...

Companies that have been investigated or fined by the European Union for anti-trust:
Microsoft (US)
Intel (US)
Google (US)
Boeing (US)
Les Laboratoires Servier (France)
Anchor Steuerberatungsgesellschaft (German)
British Airways (UK)
Lear Corp (US)
Teva Pharmaceutical (Israel)

The majority of companies investigated are not based in the EU. This may simply be media bias, or simply the fact that the largest corporations are US based. But it appears to be discriminatory, even if it isn't.


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