Four South Korean executives from Hynix Semiconductor have agreed to plead guilty for their role in fixing prices of DRAM (dynamic RAM). They will serve about six months in a US prison and each pay a $250,000 fine.

The deal follows a long investigation of a global conspiracy to manipulate the memory market. The investigation has now exposed four companies and nine individuals to criminal charges, and fined them $731 million.

DRAM sales totaled $7.7 billion in the US in 2004, according to US Department of Justice (DOJ) figures.

It's a conspiracy!

The four Hynix employees conspired with unnamed employees from other memory makers to fix the prices of DRAM sold to certain US computer and server manufacturers between April 1, 1999 to June 15, 2002, the charges claim.

The conspiracy directly affected sales to Dell, HP, Compaq, IBM, Apple and Gateway.

The four Hynix individuals (and their jail terms) are:

DS Kim, Hynix general manager for worldwide sales and marketing, eight months;
CK Chung, Hynix director of global strategic account sales, seven months;
KC Suh, Hynix senior manager of memory product marketing, six months; and
CY Choi, general manager of marketing and sales support for Hynix's German subsidiary, five months.

Each executive has also agreed to pay a $250,000 fine and to co-operate in the ongoing investigation of the DRAM industry.

The Hynix executives are the second wave of individuals to agree to prison sentences in the DRAM investigation. In December 2004, four Infineon executives pleaded guilty to the DRAM price-fixing conspiracy, and agreed to similar punishment, serving jail terms from four to six months and each paying a $250,000 fine.

Also, in December 2003 the DOJ charged one executive at Micron Technology with obstruction of justice. He was sentenced to serve six months of home detention.

In total, four companies have filed guilty pleas to price-fixing charges in the DRAM investigation: Samsung, Hynix, Elpida Memory and Infineon.