The DOJ has confirmed that it is investigating possible price fixing in the market for NAND flash memory chips, issuing grand jury subpoenas to Korea’s Samsung Electronics Company, Ltd., Japan’s Toshiba America Electric Components, Inc. and the US-based firm SanDisk Co. Korea’s Hynix Semiconductor Inc., has not yet received a subpoena, but is expected to be included in the investigation. NAND flash memory has faced increasing demand in recent years due to its use in high-capacity MP3 players and digital cameras; demand is expected to further increase as mobile phones continue to incorporate multimedia functionality.
The NAND flash memory investigation is the latest in the DOJ’s efforts to police the global memory chip market. In addition to investigating price fixing in the market for Dynamic Random Access Memory (DRAM) chips, which resulted in over US$730 million in criminal penalties and charges against four companies and 18 executives, the agency launched a similar investigation into the market for Static Random Access Memory (SRAM) in October of last year. All of the subpoenaed producers of NAND flash memory were targets of the DRAM and SRAM investigations and related private litigation in the US. The NAND memory producers under investigation by the DOJ are also among the 23 companies named in a class action lawsuit now pending in the Federal District Court for the Northern District of California.