Samsung executive to plead guilty

From Bloomberg News

An executive of Samsung Electronics Co. has agreed to plead guilty and serve 10 months in prison for participating in a conspiracy to fix the price of electronic memory chips used in computers and cellular phones, federal prosecutors said Thursday.

Young Hwan Park, president of Samsung Semiconductor Inc., a U.S. subsidiary, also agreed to a $250,000 fine, prosecutors said.

"Individuals who choose to engage in price fixing are on notice of the consequences of their illegal actions: criminal fines and prison time," Thomas Barnett, head of the Justice Department's antitrust division, said in a statement.

The Justice Department has spent more than three years on its investigation, charging four companies and 18 individuals. It has obtained more than $730 million in fines.

South Korea-based Samsung, the world's biggest maker of the DRAM memory chips, last year pleaded guilty and was fined $300 million for its role in the conspiracy. Hynix Semiconductor Inc., Infineon Technologies and Elpida Memory Inc. also pleaded guilty and were fined a combined $429 million.

Park is the fifth Samsung executive to agree to a prison sentence in connection with the government investigation. U.S. sales of the memory chips were about $7.7 billion in 2004, the agency said.

Chris Goodhart, a San Jose-based spokeswoman for Samsung, said the company "is strongly committed to fair competition and ethical practices and forbids anti-competitive behavior."

Park participated in the price-fixing conspiracy while working as vice president of sales at Samsung, the Justice Department said. His plea agreement requires approval by a federal judge in San Francisco.

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