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Friday, September 22, 2006
Samsung Executive Agrees to Jail Term for Chip Conspiracy

A US executive of South Korean electronics giant Samsung agreed to plead guilty and to serve jail time for participating in a global conspiracy to fix prices for memory chips, officials said.

The Justice Department said Thomas Quinn, vice president of marketing for memory products at Samsung Semiconductor, the California-based US unit of Samsung, agreed to the deal that would result in an eight-month prison term and a 250,000-dollar fine.

Quinn was charged with violating the US antitrust laws in a one-count criminal complaint alleging participation in an agreement to fix prices of dynamic random access memory (DRAM) chips.

The plea agreement, which must be approved by a US federal judge, also calls for Quinn to assist the ongoing investigation.

To date, four companies and 13 individuals have been charged and fines totaling more than 731 million have resulted from the DRAM investigation.

Last November, Samsung pleaded guilty as a company to charges of price fixing in a deal that came with a fine of 300 million dollars.

US authorities have alleged a conspiracy with Samsung and other producers to fix DRAM computer chip prices between April 1, 1999 and June 15, 2002.

DRAM is the most commonly used semiconductor memory product, providing high-speed storage and retrieval of electronic information for computer, telecommunications and consumer electronic products.

There were approximately 7.7 billion dollars in DRAM sales in the United States in 2004.

Authorities said the price-fixing scheme directly affected sales to US computer makers Dell, Hewlett-Packard and others.

Quinn is the fourth Samsung executive to agree to a prison sentence in the investigation. Three foreign-based Samsung executives, Sun Woo Lee, Young Woo Lee and Yeongho Kang, previously pleaded guilty and agreed to serve prison terms ranging from seven to eight months.

In additional, jail terms were agreed for Hynix Semiconductor executives Dae Soo Kim, Chae Kyun Chung, Kun Chul Suh and Choon Yub Choi; and Infineon executives T. Rudd Corwin, Peter Schaefer, Gunter Hefner and Heinrich Florian.

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