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Samsung exec pleads guilty in DRAM scandal

  Business  -   POSTED: 2007/04/20 19:18

A sixth executive from Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. has agreed to plead guilty to participating in a global conspiracy to fix DRAM prices, the Department of Justice announced. Il Ung Kim, a Korean executive, has agreed to serve 14 months in a United States prison, the longest imprisonment ever by a foreign defendant charged with price fixing in the United States, according to the DOJ.

Kim, vice president of marketing for the memory division at Samsung, agreed to plead guilty to a single count of price fixing. As part of his plea agreement, Kim agreed to pay a $250,000 criminal fine and to assist prosecutors in the ongoing investigation. The entry of the plea agreement and sentencing is currently scheduled for April 25, 2007. The plea and recommended sentence must be approved by the court.

Kim agreed to plead guilty to the charge contained in an indictment filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco in October 2006. Kim was charged with participating in a conspiracy to suppress and eliminate competition by fixing the prices of DRAM to be sold to certain original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) of personal computers and servers, in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act.

To date, the court has imposed criminal fines totaling more than $730 million against the DRAM cartel members, which is the second-largest total amount of fines ever imposed in a U.S. criminal antitrust investigation. A total of 18 individuals and four companies have been charged as a result of the Department's ongoing antitrust investigation into the DRAM industry.

In November 2005, Samsung pleaded guilty to participating in the price- fixing conspiracy and was sentenced to pay a $300 million criminal fine in November 2005. A second Korean manufacturer, Hynix Semiconductor Inc., pleaded guilty and was sentenced to pay a $185 million criminal fine in May 2005.

In October 2004, German manufacturer Infineon pleaded guilty and was sentenced to pay a $160 million criminal fine. In January 2006, Japanese manufacturer Elpida Memory pleaded guilty and was sentenced to pay an $84 million fine.

Of the 18 individuals that have been charged in the DRAM investigation, 15 individuals have been convicted. Kim is the first of three defendants charged in the October 2006 indictment to plead guilty. A trial against Kim's co- defendant Gary Swanson, senior vice president of memory sales and marketing for Hynix Semiconductor America Inc., is scheduled for Sept. 10, 2007.

A third defendant charged in the October 2006 indictment, Young Bae Rha, a Korean national and the vice president of sales and marketing for Samsung's memory division, remains at large.

Kim is the sixth Samsung executive to agree to plead guilty and agree to a prison sentence in the DRAM investigation. In April 2006, Sun Woo Lee and Yeongho Kang pleaded guilty to participating in the price-fixing conspiracy while they worked for Samsung or its subsidiaries in the U.S.


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