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NEC, Elpida to settle chip price-fix suits

December 05, 2006|From Bloomberg News

NEC Electronics America Inc. and Elpida Memory Inc. agreed to pay a total of $50.7 million to resolve lawsuits claiming they conspired to fix prices of computer memory chips.

The agreements settled private antitrust lawsuits filed over sales of dynamic random access memory, or DRAM, chips in the U.S. from 1999 to 2002, according to papers filed Friday in federal court in San Francisco. The claims were brought by manufacturers and other companies that directly purchased DRAM chips, the memory component used in products including personal computers, laptops, printers and video game consoles.

NEC and Elpida "have agreed to cooperate with plaintiffs in their prosecution of the case against the remaining defendants," the companies said in a court filing seeking preliminary approval of the settlements.

Elpida and NEC, Japan's No. 1 and No. 3 semiconductor makers, will pay $14.7 million and $36 million under the accords, respectively. Both amounts represent 18% of each company's DRAM sales to plaintiffs remaining in the case, court records said.

The two companies are the latest to settle private price-fixing suits in California. Samsung Electronics Co., Hynix Semiconductor Inc. and Infineon Technologies agreed to pay $160 million in May.

Micron Technology Inc., Nanya Technology Corp., Mosel Vitelic Inc. and Winbond Electronics Corp. remain as defendants in the litigation, according to court filings. A trial is scheduled for April.

Elpida, NEC and other dynamic random access memory makers still face civil antitrust lawsuits by U.S. states and claims by indirect purchasers that bought the chips as part of products sold by other companies. The lawsuits stem from a U.S. criminal investigation that has led to $731 million in fines for four companies and 16 individuals.

Santa Clara, Calif.-based NEC Electronics America and Jim Kreissman, a Palo Alto-based attorney for Elpida, didn't return messages seeking comment.

Tokyo-based Elpida agreed in January to pay $84 million to settle U.S. criminal charges of price fixing.

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