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Computer chip makers to pay $173 million to settle price-fixing suit

Six companies, accused by 33 state attorneys general of colluding to keep the price of memory chips from falling, admit no wrongdoing.

June 25, 2010|By Nathan Olivarez-Giles, Los Angeles Times

Six makers of computer memory chips have agreed to pay $173 million to settle accusations made by the attorneys general of California and 32 other states that they conspired to fix prices globally, officials said Thursday.

The attorneys general alleged that the companies had schemed to keep prices of dynamic random access memory chips from falling.

The companies included in the settlement, which must be approved by federal and state courts in California, included U.S.-based NEC Electronics America Inc. and Micron Technology Inc. Others were Infineon Technologies of Germany, Hynix Semiconductor Inc. in South Korea, Elpida Memory Inc. of Japan and Mosel-Vitelic Corp. of Taiwan.

None of the companies admitted wrongdoing as part of the settlement, said Christine Gasparac, a spokeswoman for the office of California Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown, who is also running for governor.

DRAM is a common type of memory chip used in computers, printers and Internet routers to store information temporarily for quick use.

The states involved in the suit alleged that upper management and salespeople at the firms held meetings and phone calls during which they agreed to set prices on DRAM chips, court documents said.

The $173 million called for in the settlement, plus interest, will be paid over a two-year period to affected consumers, schools and government offices, Gasparac said.

The agreement also calls for the companies to conduct employee training on price fixing.

The other states involved in the complaint were Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

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