Three Samsung executives have agreed to plead guilty on charges of conspiring to fix the price of computer memory chips, and now face jail terms.
The three men have each agreed to serve prison terms of between seven and eight months, and to each pay a fine of $250,000 (£147,000).
A long-running US government investigation into the price fixing of DRAM chips in the US market has so far resulted in a total of $731m in fines against 12 individuals, and four firms including Samsung, Elpida Memory, Infineon and Hynix Semiconductor. This is the first time however, that executives can expect jail terms as a result.
Companies including Dell, HP and IBM complained to the government that they had to raise PC prices or limit the amount of memory bundled with their systems to offset the inflated higher cost of the DRAM chips.
The Korean Samsung executives pleading guilty to the conspiracy charges were Sun Woo Lee, senior manager of DRAM sales; Yeongho Kang, associate director of DRAM marketing in the US; and Young Woo Lee, sales director for the company’s German division.
US attorney general Alberto Gonzales said the charges and pleas illustrated that the US would go after any US or foreign executive accused of conspiring to inflate prices for American consumers.
Samsung said it forbids any anti-competitive behaviour within its ranks. Jail terms for executives at other companies may now follow.