On June 24, the attorney generals of thirty-three states settled a price-fixing case against six computer chip manufacturers who were allegedly conspiring to fix prices in violation of US Antitrust Law. The chip manufacturers, also known as DRAM (Dynamic Random Access Memory) manufacturers, included the following: Micron Technology and NEC Electronics America, both U.S. entities; Germany-based Infeon Technologies A.G.; Hynix Semiconductor, a South Korean company; Japan-based Elpida Memory; Mosel-Vitelic Corp., a Taiwanese entity; and these companies' respective U.S. subsidiaries. DRAM chips, which account for roughly $17 billion in worldwide sales, are found most often in desktop and laptop computers, printers, and other like equipment.
This lawsuit, initially filed in federal district court in July of 2006, alleged that consumers, governments, and educational institutions were forced to pay unlawfully higher prices for DRAM products. The lawsuit further alleged that the named DRAM manufacturers conspired in a global scheme to gouge customers through illegal price-fixing mechanisms in violation of U.S. Antitrust Law. This scheme purportedly took place between 1998 and 2002, during which time the management of these companies allegedly agreed to charge customers inflated prices for DRAM products.
California Attorney General Jerry Brown, a lead Plaintiffs attorney in the lawsuit, stated, "The settlement money is welcome, but the illegal overcharging never should have happened in the first place. Especially when times are tight, schools and government agencies can't afford to be ripped off by companies that violate our antitrust laws to keep profits high."