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Infineon To Pay $160 Million For Fixing RAM Prices 356

Jerrod K writes "Infineon Technologies pleaded guilty to charges of price fixing in an international conspiracy. The Justice Department said this is the third largest antitrust settlement ever. Other memory chip makers involved include Hynix, Samsung, and Micron Technology." Reader phalse phace adds a link to CNET's coverage.
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Infineon To Pay $160 Million For Fixing RAM Prices

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  • Sweet. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by rincebrain ( 776480 ) on Wednesday September 15, 2004 @05:01PM (#10260013) Homepage
    Does that mean I can upgrade my RAM for less than the cost of a new processor now?

    I mean, seriously. The prices were ludicrous for high-end manufacturers, and the low-end can sometimes die, and you have no recourse.

    • Re:Sweet. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Jason1729 ( 561790 ) on Wednesday September 15, 2004 @05:07PM (#10260088)
      Compare the transisitor count in a 256 meg DIMM to a CPU. That's 2 gigabits and a minimum of 1 transistor per bit, so at least 2 billion transistors. Intel and AMD barely have over 100 million in their newest CPUs, so the memory has 20 times the transistor count.

      A lot more engineering goes into a CPU, but the price of memory compared to a CPU isn't really that surprising.

      A lot of the microcontrollers I work with are basically a tiny sliver of processor on the edge of a large field of memory.

      ProfQuotes [profquotes.com]
      • Re:Sweet. (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Kogase ( 811902 )
        But aren't the transistors on a CPU considerably smaller? And don't CPU production facilities cost consiberably more than those for RAM chips? Notice the "don't" and the question marks.
        • Re:Sweet. (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Jason1729 ( 561790 ) on Wednesday September 15, 2004 @05:31PM (#10260310)
          I don't know, but comparing the die size of the CPU to the area taken up by the chips on the memory module, it 'looks' like the memory is at least as dense as the CPU.

          I'm pretty sure (but not certain) that a memory fab plant costs more to produce than a CPU plant, but the memory plant will produce far more chips over its lifetime.

          ProfQuotes [profquotes.com]
          • Circuit complexity. (Score:4, Informative)

            by uberdave ( 526529 ) on Wednesday September 15, 2004 @06:35PM (#10260865) Homepage
            It's not so much the die size, but the circuit complexity. A memory chip is basically the same circuit duplicated several million times. A CPU has registers, ALUs, pipelines, control circuitry, and who knows what else. Memory chips are cheaper to design, and sell in greater quantities.
            • by mkldev ( 219128 )
              Not only cheaper to design, but much cheaper to fab. The technology for CPUs is currently at 90nm. RAM, by contrast, is moving from a 130nm to 110nm process this year, and there are talks of plans to move to 90nm next year. That means that by the time the DRAM vendors switch to a smaller process, the industry as a whole typically has had a whole year to work out the kinks for them.

      • Re:Sweet. (Score:5, Interesting)

        by ZorinLynx ( 31751 ) on Wednesday September 15, 2004 @05:39PM (#10260384) Homepage
        I've always wondered why they can't manufacture DRAM chips with spare memory cells, the same way that hard drives get spare sectors. Then rather than tossing out chips for as little as one bad bit, they can remap the bad bits to the spare cells and still use the chip.

        Yields would go up, prices would go down.

        I can't be the only person to have thought of this; why isn't it done?

        • Re:Sweet. (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Jason1729 ( 561790 )
          My guess is you'd need some non-volitile storage to keep track of the bad bits and the mappings. A little non-volitile memory will more than double the cost of the chip and the remapping will slow the memory down to much.
        • Re:Sweet. (Score:2, Informative)

          by mobby_6kl ( 668092 )
          I'm not sure if they currently do this, but they (and the CPU guys) do something similar for speed: if this module can't do stable 533, rate it at 400, if it can't do 400, rate it at 333 but just sell it.
          • Re:Sweet. (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Maserati ( 8679 )
            You're damn right they do this. And some systems (Macs) are *very* finicky about their RAM. An 'underclocked' DIMM may technically meet the electrical specifications for what they're selling it as, but still not meet the system's standards.

            I've only found one manufacturer to never sell me an underclocked chip: Kensington. Of course, I suspect they sell their underclocked chips to other vendors as an OEM, but I can still trust the Kingston label. Others may be as good, but I haven't tried 'em all and Kingst
            • Re:Sweet. (Score:3, Informative)

              by mkldev ( 219128 )
              I've used a lot of generic RAM in Macs---a bunch of 61/71/8100 machines, a 7600, a beige G3, a Pismo, a white iBook, a G4/450, and a DP G5 2GHz. In all that time, I've only had one single failure and that was because the chip turned out to be non-compliant with the JEDEC specifications. (It was at a higher density than the specification allowed. It didn't work in my Athlon machine, either, yet the vendor tested it and claimed that it worked.)

              That's not saying that your mileage won't vary, but generally

        • just for historys sake the spectrum was designed with 32 k ram chips which were actually failed 64k ram chips I think a jumper decided if the top half was good or the lower. in later times the spectrum got working 64k ram chips still for use as 32k.

  • by garcia ( 6573 ) * on Wednesday September 15, 2004 @05:01PM (#10260017)
    The real question is do they get to give away a bunch of 256k chips to schools as a tax credit?
  • Odd Concept (Score:5, Funny)

    by Timber_Z ( 777048 ) on Wednesday September 15, 2004 @05:01PM (#10260021)
    I recall that things got pretty bad for awhile, but I still have a hard time with the concept of price fixing, when I clearly remember paying $150 for 8MB of ram, and how good of a deal that was.
    • Re:Odd Concept (Score:3, Interesting)

      by HBI ( 604924 )
      I remember paying $450 for an entire XT compatible with 640mb of RAM. The price without RAM was $200.

      It was well over $1000 a meg at one point. The price of RAM has been dropping over the years though. In the early days (70's) you could spend that much on 64k of Static RAM.
    • by EmbeddedJanitor ( 597831 ) on Wednesday September 15, 2004 @05:48PM (#10260475)
      So if you get together with the other RAM vendors to stabilise the market to keep it sustainable (like OPEC and many others do) then that's illegal price fixing.

      If you sell at too low a prices then you're "dumping" and that's illegal too.

      One law is there to protect the consumer and the other is there to protect other suppliers.

      Unless companies can sustainably make profit from their silicon sales we're doomed to boom and bust cycles where we oscillate between RAM surpluses and RAM shortages. In the long run, we all lose if these companies cant stabilise and make reasonable profits.

      • by SpecBear ( 769433 ) on Wednesday September 15, 2004 @07:32PM (#10261304)
        I don't see how it's a fine line between dumping and fixing. They seem to be polar opposites. As I understand it:

        Fixing: I get together with my competitors and we all agree to sell products at a certain price. Since we're no longer competing against each other, we can negate the downward pressure on prices (and thus profits) that usually results from a competitive market.

        Dumping: If I happen to have a bunch of money, instead of cooperating with my competitors, I try to kill them off. I price my products below the cost to make them, ensuring that nobody can run a sustainable business in the market. Since I have a bunch of money, I can last longer than my competitors. Once they die off or move on, I have a monopoly and can jack up prices far above what a competitive market would support.

        We all lose if these companies can't stabilize, but we all win if the companies that can't manage their freaking inventory die off and make room for companies that actually read their history and learn from it. Collusion won't end the boom/bust cycle. It'll just ensure that the consumer gets screwed on prices regardless of whether there's a shortage or a surplus.
  • by Nom du Keyboard ( 633989 ) on Wednesday September 15, 2004 @05:02PM (#10260030)
    And just how do I benefit?

    It's not like I expect them to send me a check in the mail. And if they did, it would cost me more in time and effort to collect it than it's value.

    The lawyers should have to be paid just like everyone else that sees any part of this settlement.

    • by xsupergr0verx ( 758121 ) on Wednesday September 15, 2004 @05:06PM (#10260073)
      Maybe it's like the RIAA settlement.

      Each lawyer gets a new yacht, and we get a check for $4 in the mail.
    • there's added incintive for the companies to NOT DO THIS SORT OF THING now, the society as a whole benefits and that is how you get the benefit.

      that's the whole point of those fines, you make the RISK of running such price fixing schemes too high that they don't want to take it.

      like the fairly recent cartel busts in metal and paper industries(northern+mid europe)... you don't directly get anything but by punishing with hefty fines (also in the 100m+ range)they send a message that "don't fucking do this".
      • by strictfoo ( 805322 ) <strictfoo-signup AT yahoo DOT com> on Wednesday September 15, 2004 @05:28PM (#10260293) Journal
        there's added incintive for the companies to NOT DO THIS SORT OF THING now, the society as a whole benefits and that is how you get the benefit.

        Yes, these wonderful lawyers who are doing this for the little people like you and me. The fact that they're making millions of dollars is inconsequential to them.

        I mean, look at the music industry! They've definitely changed their ways now that 20 different lawyer firms have made millions off of them and we've all gotten $2.85 checks in the mail.
        • Yes, these wonderful lawyers who are doing this for the little people like you and me.

          Actually, yes. Imagine that, a lawyer can right a social wrong AND get paid well at the same time. Sounds like a noble profession.

          Disclaimer: IANAL

          • Great, so, they're creating another "social" wrong - receiving tons of money by having a skill set (and lack of morals) that allows them to abuse a corrupt and broken system. I really wouldn't call price fixing RAM as being a "social" wrong either.

            You realize who ends up paying these lawyers, right?

            Here's a hint: It's not the companies. It's not the insurance companies. It's not the government.

            Here's the answer: It's the consumers (that's you and me).
  • Now thats fair. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DAldredge ( 2353 ) <SlashdotEmail@GMail.Com> on Wednesday September 15, 2004 @05:02PM (#10260033) Journal
    A local family man is facing 20+ years in prision for walking into the vault at the back where he worked and taking 100,000 USD.

    Why do large corps get away with crap like this, hell the goverment doesn't even go after those whitecollar criminals that skip bail...

    But, normal crimes they come down hard on.
    • Re:Now thats fair. (Score:2, Insightful)

      by slashjames ( 789070 )
      It all comes down to keeping control of the country/society. There is more "common" crime than "white collar" crime; therefore you punish the common criminals more severly to keep the commoners in line, and make a show out of punishing the white collar criminals. Always bear in mind there are a LOT more people who make $100k.
    • Re:Now thats fair. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by lothar97 ( 768215 ) * <owen&smigelski,org> on Wednesday September 15, 2004 @05:17PM (#10260187) Homepage Journal
      What's even more aggrevating is that these companies, once they pay for the mistakes in some manner (such as a fine), they are free to function as if nothing went wrong.

      A perfect example is MCI/Worldcom. After imploding under massive amounts of fraud, screwing tons of people out of investments, employment, 401ks, etc, the company gets to "re-organize," pay a fine, then get government contracts. I bet if I'm punished for fraud, I would be shunned for life in any type of business setting.

      This corporate crime problem will continue as long as it can be solved by fines, admitting no wrongdoing, and the limited minor punishments for those involved. I imagine if we held these people personally liable for all damage, put the company under 5-10 years probation, and made sure large jail sentances were required, we'd see a lot less of this trickery.

      Then again, we don't want to hurt the innocent employess, and we don't want excessive government regulation.

      • Re:Now thats fair. (Score:3, Interesting)

        by raygundan ( 16760 )
        I agree with you. If they managed to find enough evidence to prove there was collusion, then surely they have enough information to point out the names of at least some of the people involved in the price fixing. These people should all be punished under normal theft laws for taking the money.

        Your pick:

        1. One huge count of stealing millions as if it were from a federal bank.

        2. Hundreds of thousands of smaller counts of stealing from the individuals and companies who paid higher prices for their RAM.

        • Re:Now thats fair. (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Marxist Hacker 42 ( 638312 ) * <seebert42@gmail.com> on Wednesday September 15, 2004 @05:55PM (#10260533) Homepage Journal
          We can't put a corp in jail for 20 years, and we can't give it the death penalty for awful crimes.

          Actually we could- we just don't because we don't have any politicians left to write the laws to do so, just corporate puppets.

          How to put a corporation in jail for 20 years: take away it's bank accounts for 20 years and give the interest to the victims.

          How to give a corporation the death penalty: Let the government confiscate it and start competing with other businesses in that industry.

          Bet if you had those two punishments instead of the fines, the corporations would shape right up.
      • Re:Now thats fair. (Score:5, Interesting)

        by chancycat ( 104884 ) on Wednesday September 15, 2004 @06:00PM (#10260568) Journal
        Or for that matter, execute convicted perpetrators of fraud, as China does and did recently for four cases of bank faud [cnn.com]. Note I do not support capital punishment, and China's examples put the topic into a perspective I've never encountered before: "a 'kill fewer, kill carefully' policy for nonviolent crimes."
      • Re:Now thats fair. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by AuMatar ( 183847 ) on Wednesday September 15, 2004 @06:22PM (#10260759)
        Hear hear!

        The CEO of Infineon obviously knew they were price fixing. There's no reason that he should be allowed to get away with it. There ought to be a chunk of that fine coming from HIS pocket, and a nice long stay in club fed afterwards. As it is now, there's no incentives for the CEOs not to break the law- if they don't get caught, they make tons of money, if they do, the corporation pays the fine and they've STILL made money.
      • Re:Now thats fair. (Score:5, Interesting)

        by killjoe ( 766577 ) on Wednesday September 15, 2004 @06:55PM (#10260987)
        "Then again, we don't want to hurt the innocent employess, and we don't want excessive government regulation."

        Punishing the guilty should not be seen as excessive govt regulation. The solution is simple. Dissolve the corporation and confiscate all the assets.

        It's imperitive that the shareholders get screwed in the worse possible way possible. It was their job to make sure their company was run responsibly and it's their fault that the company committed crimes.

        Once the assets get liquidated the money should be given as severence pay to all the employees starting at the bottom and working your way to the top until the money runs out.
    • Re:Now thats fair. (Score:5, Informative)

      by Daniel ( 1678 ) <dburrows@@@debian...org> on Wednesday September 15, 2004 @05:35PM (#10260341)
      My dictionary (written circa 1911) says:

      CORPORATION, n. An ingenious device for obtaining individual profit without individual responsibility.

      Does that answer the question?

    • I think that's because law enforcement or government agencies can explain to most people (99.999%, with a 4% margin of error ;) ) what is wrong with robbing a bank. It's a visible, tactile, removing of money from a secure place into the hands of someone who has a difficult time explaining ownership.

      On the other hand, they'd be pretty lucky if they could explain several white-collar crimes to more than 60% of the population. Most people can't "touch" the concepts of white-collar crime, and in some cases, o
  • Oh well (Score:4, Funny)

    by JLSigman ( 699615 ) <jlsigman@hotmail.com> on Wednesday September 15, 2004 @05:04PM (#10260057) Homepage Journal
    Guess we won't be getting our $13.50 checks. :-p
  • by revscat ( 35618 ) on Wednesday September 15, 2004 @05:05PM (#10260069) Journal

    Cases like this remind me why I don't think the libertarian philosophy towards free markets is all that realistic. Many libertarians believe that things such as this should be left to the marketplace to settle, and that government "interference" like this ultimately harms the market. I emphatically disagree. There are inherent flaws with the free market that the justice system can and should remedy so that the overall market is healthier thereby. Collusion does no one -- consumers, industries, or the economy as a whole -- any favors, and I fail to see how letting the market handle it would do anything but unfairly fatten the pockets of those who benefit.

    • by Jahf ( 21968 ) on Wednesday September 15, 2004 @05:19PM (#10260198) Journal
      You're right in the "many libertarians" statement, but that doesn't mean it is a clear majority. Unfortunately for Libs (like me) there are really 2 Lib groups within the party. Right/Conservative and Left/Liberal.

      The Liberal side would be more in favor of government taking care of business like this but trying for the most part to stay out of other places like social laws (most especially privacy). The Conservative side is more set on seeing government stay out of business entirely as well as the social aspects.

      I'm primarily a Libertarian Left because I'm more moderate on business than a Democrat, but far more liberal on social issues than a Republican, and I think both parties have sold out when it comes to privacy. However in this case I think the matter was solved properly.
    • by doc modulo ( 568776 ) on Wednesday September 15, 2004 @05:24PM (#10260258)
      In the age of the industrial revolution, it was free market all the way. It turned out to be a reall hell for the employees. Near-slavery situations.

      In the end, the manufacturers failed as well, because they gave so little money to their employees and other population groups, that no one could affort their products anymore.

      People have to abide by rules, and so do companies/corporations. corporations try to be an "individual" anyway, so they should accept the responsibilities that come with it.

      Limitations on what powerful entities can do to the rest of the population is good for the population. In the end it's also good for the powerful because rules make sure that no one can leech the population dry with cartels and monopolies and people will be able to afford the products and services.
      • In the age of the industrial revolution, it was free market all the way. It turned out to be a reall hell for the employees. Near-slavery situations.

        Not true in America. Corporations operating within the free market only made up a tiny fraction of the American economy right up to 1900, no matter what you learned in your school textbooks. More than 90% of the entire economic output of the U.S. was in the hands of small businesses, most of these family-operated.

        In those businesses working conditions were
    • Who did the price fixing harm? A few OEM's. What would the OEM's options have been under a free society? Sue Infineon for fraudulant negotiation. Would Infineon and friends have been able to maintain a cartel without the benefit of government copyright and patent laws? No, because there would be no barrier to entry.

      Sorry, but I don't see the problem. The economy isn't a zero-sum game. Even if some RAM manufacturers managed to unfairly fatten their pockets, so what? A free market will not let any cartel kee
    • Correct, with the Libertarian philosophy, we'ld have situations like what was happening in the coal mines early last century. On average over 2000 coal miners died each year here in the U.S. in mining fires and explosions. That was the toll in the years from 1900 - 1910, before the government stepped in with safety regulations. Oh, and by the way the companies would hire thugs to kill picketers and union organizers.
      • Oh, and by the way the companies would hire thugs to kill picketers and union organizers.

        And now they have government thugs to do it for them. That is, if the government doesn't decide to make it illegal for the workers to strike at all "in the national interest".

        You also failed to mention that the regulations in question forced THOUSANDS of small family-owned and operated coal mining businesses to fold. Not a single major corporation suffered in any conceivable way, nearly all of the small businesses
    • Point to something that is perfect.

      The free market does alright. Its weakness is that it requires lots of information to work well. The *necessary* function of government in such cases is that it has the power to compel the disgorgement of hidden information and to come in and sift through everything until it is found.

      We all assume that, having discovered something wrong, "the government" should go on and make it right, but it doesn't have to be that way. Given enough information, the market can simply
  • by what_the_frell ( 690581 ) on Wednesday September 15, 2004 @05:07PM (#10260079)
    You can bet your cash-starved wallet it'll be the corporations DELL that will receive the compensation/benefit, and keep the RAM pricing the same for the consumers so they can continue to recoup their losses .
  • by mattgarnsey ( 660568 ) on Wednesday September 15, 2004 @05:07PM (#10260089)

    From the article (condensed for brevity):

    Infineon Technologies announced today that it has plead guilty to a single and limited charge related to the violation of US antitrust laws in connection with the pricing in its Dynamic Random Access Memory.

    Infineon strongly condemns any attempt to fix or stabilize prices. Infineon is committed to vigorous and fair competition based solely on superior products and services.

  • by ShatteredDream ( 636520 ) on Wednesday September 15, 2004 @05:07PM (#10260091) Homepage
    People like myself, who are more classical liberals than libertarians, apply Lord Acton's famous expression "power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely" to economics. The more wealth that is centralized in faceless organizations, the more power they have. Yet, the wealth is not to be measured in just how much cash they have, but by the position they enjoy which can be worth more than their bank accounts.

    Anti-trust laws are nothing more than a way to provide a check on corporate power. They exist to keep companies, especially big corporations, from becoming in Locke's words "a law unto themselves."

    Anyone who calls themself a libertarian, opposes antitrust laws and has a sympathetic view of the south in the civil war would do well to read some of the founders of the CSA's opinions on monied corporations. The short summary is that they considered them to be a plague on basic liberties and the free market and were fighting more against the corporations who saught the tariff which taxed the southern economy terribly and used the money to line the pockets of corporations, than it was for "states' rights." The major state's right was to "be free from being sucked dry by monied corporations."

    I will say this about monopolies. The government creates many of these headaches that it has to later solve by having expansive IP laws which allow patent holders to rape and pillage innovators. Would someone please tell me why we can patent online shopping carts and file formats? How about business processes in general? What about things we have never even fully or at all implemented ourselves?

    If the government were to be reconstituted on classical liberal values, most of these monopolies would die like vampires in the morning sunlight.
    • Anyone who calls themself a libertarian, opposes antitrust laws and has a sympathetic view of the south in the civil war would do well to read some of the founders of the CSA's opinions on monied corporations.

      Now go look at what the CSA was complaining about. You yourself say they were seeking tariffs. The problem with the monied corporations at that time was that they were receiving *government* privilege!

      Would someone please tell me why we can patent online shopping carts and file formats? How about b
  • FINALLY! (Score:3, Informative)

    by Silverlancer ( 786390 ) on Wednesday September 15, 2004 @05:08PM (#10260096)
    For the past 2-3 years, RAM prices haven't dropped--they've gone up. The RAM that I bought with my current computer costs MORE now than it did when I bought it a year ago, and not only that--its crap quality too! Its supposedly PC3700, but won't hit PC3700 speeds on stock timings even with extra voltage!

    This is one of the few great examples where we get to love the American legal system ;)
    • Re:FINALLY! (Score:3, Informative)

      by tukkayoot ( 528280 )
      I doubt you'll see any change, as the article mentions that the price fixing was limited to certain OEMs between 1999 to 2002.
    • PC3700 isn't a standard speed. The only way to get that speed is via overclocking which voids your warrenty. So basically you are saying that you can't get your PC to use memory that it isn't rated for but you blame the memory maker?
  • .....no wonder their memory upgrades are so expensive. They should have just bought DRAM from Crucial. ;)
  • Still. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ShizCakes ( 799018 )
    This fine may be huge, but will we see a benefit from it? Probably not.
  • Conflict of Interest (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jmulvey ( 233344 ) on Wednesday September 15, 2004 @05:09PM (#10260111)
    "Infineon has agreed to pay a $160m fine to the US government"

    Once again, the companies profit and the US government gets cash... and joe six-pack gets screwed. I mean, with the government receiving all these settlements from Microsoft and the tobacco companies... why aren't our taxes going down?

    The US government has more than a bit of conflict of interest in its role as protector of the public from price-fixing and monopolies, yet recipient of huge settlements when they are allowed to grow and blossom.

    I'm sure Infineon, a company that has annual GROSS PROFITS of over $2 BILLION USD a year made a hell of a lot more that $160m. So Infineon makes out, and the government makes out.

    But where's my money? You remember me, the guy that got ripped off?
    • by Zed2K ( 313037 )
      "why aren't our taxes going down?"

      Mine did. Tax tables changed, I took more money home. I bought a house, deductable interest, even lower taxes. Don't know what you problem is.
    • Do you act with all your power to reduce your own taxes?

      Government's primary purpose is to further itself. Any entity's primary purpose has to be, else said entity would cease.

      It's secondary purpose, then, is to govern, ie regulate and control it's people.
      It's third perpose would be to a side effect of the second, and that is benefit those goverened.
  • They paid over $150 million for fixing RAM prices? [wink wink]

    Damn. I would've thought a Crucial.com web programmer or database technician could've done that pretty easily by having each stick of RAM on the website subtract, say, $20 - $30.

    That's what? $22.50 for the hour spent making the change? Hell -- even cheaper if Crucial.com outsources its website/database operations to Bangalore.

  • by srwalter ( 39999 ) on Wednesday September 15, 2004 @05:11PM (#10260130) Homepage Journal
    Every good slashdotter should realize that this is impossible. Theregister must just be trying to pull one over on us. I mean, clearly the Bush Administration is in the pocket of Corporations, and would never allow this to happen to big business. Obviously, the story is a farce.
    • I know you are kidding, but it's a view held seriously by many over-politicized geeks. I had one at work last month whine about how all the "Enron guys got off scot-free". I pointed him to a web page detailing the indictments and convictions already handed down, along with exactly how complex the case was (hence the delay as cases were prepared), and a little mention of "innocent until proven guilty".

      You should have seen the retarded idiot go through multiple waves of ideological panic in trying to fit th

  • by webword ( 82711 ) on Wednesday September 15, 2004 @05:12PM (#10260133) Homepage
    Interestingly, there is a press release [infineon.com] on this topic on the Infineon web site. Please note a discrepancy between what the Register says and what their press release says...

    Register: "Infineon has agreed to pay a $160m fine to the US government for fixing the price of computer memory from 1999 to 2002, one of the biggest ever penalties imposed by the DoJ's Antitrust division."

    Infineon: "The wrongdoing charged by the DoJ was limited to certain OEM customers. Infineon is already been in contact with these customers and has achieved or is in the process of achieving settlements with all of these OEM customers."

    So, is the government getting the money or the OEMs. Note that either way, the trickle down to regular folks (i.e., you!) will take a long time.

    p.s. I love this quote from the Infineon press release: "Infineon strongly condemns any attempt to fix or stabilize prices. Infineon is committed to vigorous and fair competition based solely on superior products and services."

    Infineon 0, U.S. Department of Justice 1.
  • by optimus2861 ( 760680 ) on Wednesday September 15, 2004 @05:14PM (#10260149)
    The latest info I can find dates from around May [infoworld.com], but Infineon is one of the DRAM makers facing a patent-infringement lawsuit from Rambus, and if that doesn't go well for them (Rambus had an initial setback but has been getting favourable rulings since; anyone who wants to cry "submarine patent!" better read up on the history, it's nowhere near that cut-and-dry) they could very well go under. I think they will lose it, and get hit with willful infringment for triple damages, which will easily run the damages into the billions. I doubt Infineon could absorb that.
  • by LostCluster ( 625375 ) * on Wednesday September 15, 2004 @05:19PM (#10260200)
    They just broke down the company name to Infineon...
  • by SenorCitizen ( 750632 ) on Wednesday September 15, 2004 @05:19PM (#10260206)
    If you want a *big* international anti-trust case, just try sueing OPEC.

    How are they any different?
    • by Cecil ( 37810 ) on Wednesday September 15, 2004 @06:31PM (#10260825) Homepage
      Because they're a group of countries, not a business, and countries aren't subject to any sort of anti-trust law. They're free to do whatever they want with the their own resources, including gouging other countries. It's one of the wonderful rights you get by being a soverign country.

      I realize that globalization is busy blurring the line between the two sets of entities, but at the moment businesses don't have militaries.

      That's the real difference.
      • I realize that globalization is busy blurring the line between the two sets of entities, but at the moment businesses don't have militaries.

        It's a good thing, too. However, that day is probably coming. I believe this much of the "dark future" scenarios that we find in the much-maligned (usually deservingly so) "cyberpunk" genre: Some governments are going to collapse. Some corporations are going to become sovereign powers. And it's going to go very, very badly. Hopefully it will only be a fad...

        • However, that day is probably coming.

          Actually, that day has already been there, done that - look into the East India Company [ucla.edu], circa 17th century. Basically a large "multinational" corporation with its own Navy and Army. More or less ruled India in the day, and controlled major trading routes (shipping). Its rule lasted for 200 years, until the British finally stepped up to the plate and dissolved the company.

          History - learn it or repeat it. It happenned then, it could easily happen today (some might say it

      • by Lord_Dweomer ( 648696 ) on Wednesday September 15, 2004 @08:25PM (#10261712) Homepage
        Businesses don't have militaries?

        Lets not forget about BlackwaterUSA [blackwaterusa.com] which IS a business military, currently hired by our government.

  • Antitrust! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Exmet Paff Daxx ( 535601 ) on Wednesday September 15, 2004 @05:22PM (#10260234) Homepage Journal
    Now let me state the present rules,"

    The lawyer then went on,
    "These very simple guidelines,
    You can rely upon:
    Your gouging on your prices if
    You charge more than the rest.
    But it's unfair competition if
    You think you can charge less!
    "A second point that we would make
    To help avoid confusion...
    Don't try to charge the same amount,
    That would be Collusion!
    You must compete. But not too much,
    For if you do you see,
    Then the market would be yours -
    And that's Monopoly!

    - The Incredible Bread Machine [vex.net]

    There are no rules, save "Don't Succeed". Gotta love America - they love capitalism, and someday they intend to give it a go.
  • Too bad they've already been pushed out of the PC ram business. Hey, shit happens, right?
  • The reason for this (Score:4, Interesting)

    by IGnatius T Foobar ( 4328 ) on Wednesday September 15, 2004 @05:45PM (#10260446) Homepage Journal
    The real reason for this: Windows Longhorn is going to require an obscene amount of memory, so Microsoft's new bought-and-paid-for friends in the DOJ are making sure RAM chips are inexpensive.
  • by Guspaz ( 556486 ) on Wednesday September 15, 2004 @05:46PM (#10260449)
    Does this mean that companies like Dell (Any big computer company really) will stop charging five times more than retail for memory upgrades?

    I tried to price it on Dell's site for notebooks. In retail, 2x256 is the same price as 1x512, more or less. (All prices that follow are Canadian)

    Dell charges 200$ for the DIFFERENCE between them.

    To upgrade from 2x256 to 2x512, they charge 600$. They should be charging about 150$. When I purchased a DDR333 512MB SODIMM, I paid 144$.

    Now, even when using ultra-premium ram (Which they don't), there's a big difference between 144$ and 600$.
  • by nlinecomputers ( 602059 ) on Wednesday September 15, 2004 @05:46PM (#10260451)
    If I personally break the law I will probably be incarcerated for my crimes. Yet a corporation who's only job is to make more money then it spends simply pays a fine. If I am in jail I can't earn any money or perform any deeds outside of a very limited set of rules. Corporations shouldn't be fined. They should be forced to shutdown or even be disbanded.
  • by Cryogenes ( 324121 ) on Wednesday September 15, 2004 @07:37PM (#10261344)
    and there are at least a dozen competing vendors. When they charge low, they get hit for dumping, when they charge high they get hit for fixing.

    Or is it the US extorting money from foreign companies because they can? Does it also happen the other way round? (And don't give MS vs. EU as an example, MS hasn't paid a penny yet and probably never will).
  • by rspress ( 623984 ) on Thursday September 16, 2004 @12:03AM (#10262952) Homepage
    How about the people who ponied up the dollars to buy it! I bought RAM from crucial.com a division of Micron. Shouldn't I get some dollars back?

"My sense of purpose is gone! I have no idea who I AM!" "Oh, my God... You've.. You've turned him into a DEMOCRAT!" -- Doonesbury