Leading DRam suppliers are facing potential price-fixing allegations and are under investigation by the US Department of Justice (DoJ) and the European Union (EU).
Micron, Samsung and Infineon Technologies have been accused of colluding to fix prices in 2001, just before DRam prices rose by up to 300 per cent over a few months.
Although the DoJ has been investigating claims of DRam price-fixing since 2002, new evidence has emerged following the recent dropping of an antitrust lawsuit against Rambus.
Evidence contained in the Federal Trust Commission (FTC) case against Rambus included emails which are expected to boost the DoJ's efforts.
It was alleged that one email conversation between Micron manager Kathy Radford and other DRam suppliers could suggest that an accord was reached in relation to raising DRam prices.
In a November 2001 email, the court heard, Radford described the efforts of Infineon and Samsung to raise DDR prices and said Micron intended to try to raise its prices to all of its OEM customers.
Radford then reported: "The consensus from all suppliers is that if Micron makes the move, all of them will do the same and make it stick."
It was shown that prices rose sharply in the months following this email.
At the time, Dell chief executive Michael Dell was among the most vociferous critics of the DRam price hikes, suggesting they were the result of "cartel-like behaviour by a couple of DRam suppliers".
Dave Flack, sales and marketing director at distributor Memory Plus, said: "It's hardly surprising. They may have felt they had to do it. They were essentially running fabs that produced products that were losing money.
Anyone in their right mind would have tried to head off that scenario. I don't think the authorities will be able to prove anything in the end; it's more of a warning shot across the bows of DRam makers to keep them in line."
Since the FTC release of the email evidence, Micron has confirmed that the EU is also investigating allegations of price-fixing.
Dave Parker, director of corporate communications at Micron Technology, said: "In April 2003, we received a letter from EU regulators seeking certain information; we understand it was sent to all DRam manufacturers. We are co-operating with the European authorities."
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