Hynix has agreed to plead guilty and pay a $185 million fine for conspiring to fix prices in the multibillion-dollar DRAM market, the US Department of Justice has announced.

Hynix participated in an international conspiracy to fix DRAM prices, the DoJ said. Its fine is the third-largest criminal anti-trust fine in US history and the largest criminal fine since George Bush took office in early 2001.

Hynix's fine follows a $160 million fine paid by German DRAM maker Infineon Technologies in September last year. Infineon agreed then to co-operate in the DoJ's continuing investigation of DRAM price fixing between 1999 and 2002.

Computer makers including IBM, HP and Dell, as well as "countless U.S. businesses and consumers" were victims of the DRAM pricing conspiracy, said Scott Hammond, deputy assistant attorney general for criminal enforcement in the DoJ's Anti-trust Division.

"There was almost constant communications between the companies," Hammond said. He declined to talk about other pending charges, but said the DoJ investigation is ongoing.

In December 2004, four Infineon executives pleaded guilty to charges related to price fixing. The four are currently serving jail terms of between four months and six months, and each paid a fine of $250,000. In December 2003, the DoJ charged a Micron Technology sales manager with obstruction of justice. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to serve six months of home detention.

In addition to the criminal charges, the DRAM markers face class-action lawsuits brought by customers of DRAM.

Hynix has yet to comment on the matter.