Four Infineon executives have pleaded guilty and been sent to jail for their part in DRAM memory price fixing between 2001 and 2002.
The sales executives admitted to a scheme to artificially set prices for DRAM memory with other co-conspirators, who were not named in a US Department of Justice (DoJ) press release. All agreed to pay a $250,000 criminal fine and will serve prison terms ranging from four to six months.
Two of the executives worked at Infineon's headquarters in Munich. Heinrich Florian, Infineon's vice president for sales will serve a six-month prison sentence. Gunter Hefner, vice president of sales for memory products, will spend five months in prison.
The other two executives worked at Infineon North America's San Jose, California, office. Peter Schaefer was vice president of marketing, sales and logistics in San Jose during 2001 and 2002, and will serve a four-month prison sentence for his role in the conspiracy. T. Rudd Corwin was vice president for customer marketing and sales of memory products from 1999 to 2002, and will serve a four-month sentence for price-fixing activities during those years.
Two of the four executives left Infineon or are in the process of doing so, the company said. The other two executives have been assigned to other positions. Infineon will not comment on which executives have left the company, he said.
The DoJ has been investigating allegations of DRAM price fixing since 2002. Earlier this year, Infineon pled guilty to corporate price-fixing charges and agreed to pay a $160 million fine. "These four executives are the first to plead guilty to a charge of fixing prices in what is still a very active and far-reaching investigation into anti-trust violations in the DRAM industry," said Scott Hammond, the DoJ's director of criminal enforcement in the anti-trust division. "We will continue in our efforts to bring to justice other domestic and foreign-based executives who were involved in fixing DRAM prices."
The four executives admitted to participating in meetings with co-conspirators to discuss the prices of DRAM, exchange information about DRAM sales to PC customers and agree upon prices for DRAM chips. The PC customers affected by the price-fixing activities included Dell, Compaq, HP, Apple, IBM and Gateway.
An executive at DRAM vendor Micron Technology pled guilty in January to obstruction of justice with regard to the DoJ's investigation of price-fixing allegations. Court documents filed as part of a separate dispute between the DRAM vendors and memory designer Rambus indicated that Samsung and Hynix were also involved in price-fixing activities along with Micron and Infineon, but as of yet no action has been taken against those companies or individuals within those companies.
"Infineon has taken aggressive steps to clarify compliance requirements with the US anti-trust law and to strengthen our global training programs in order to ensure that issues like these do not arise again. We continue to fully cooperate with the ongoing DOJ investigation," the company said in a statement.