European antitrust regulators fined nine semiconductor manufacturers more than €331 million (£283 million) on Wednesday following an investigation into price fixing in the market for DRAM memory chips.
The European Commission said all of the companies submitted settlements admitting their liability for infringement. The companies fined are Samsung Electronics, Infineon, Hynix Semiconductor, Elpida Memory, NEC Electronics, Hitachi, Toshiba, Mitsubishi Electric and Nanya Technology.
A tenth company, Micron, escaped a fine since it told the Commission about the cartel in 2002. Four of the companies -- Infineon, Hynix, Samsung, Elpida and NEC -- applied for leniency, which reduced their fine. All of the companies received a 10 percent reduction for settling the case. The collective fine amounts to €331,273,800.
The cartel operated between July 1, 1998, and June 15, 2002, and "involved a network of contacts and sharing of secret information, mostly on a bilateral basis, through which they coordinated the price levels and quotations for DRAMs," the Commission said in a statement.
US regulators fined several companies for DRAM price fixing in 2004 and 2005. Samsung Electronics pleaded guilty and was fined US$300 million for conspiracy to fix prices in the DRAM market, according to the US Department of Justice.
Hynix also pleaded guilty and was ordered to pay $185 million in May 2005. Infineon was fined $160 million. Four Infineon executives also pleaded guilty to the price-fixing conspiracy, serving prison terms of between four and six months and paying a $250,000 fine.