* 33 U.S. states join settlement
* Alleged conspiracy to inflate computer chip prices
* Several chipmakers fined by EU last month
NEW YORK, June 24 Six companies have agreed to
pay $173 million to settle U.S. antitrust lawsuits accusing
them of conspiring to keep computer chip prices artificially
California Attorney General Jerry Brown announced the
settlement with Micron Technology Inc (MU.O), NEC Corp (6701.T)
unit NEC Electronics America Inc, Germany's Infineon
Technologies AG (IFXGn.DE), South Korea's Hynix Semiconductor
Inc (000660.KS), Japan's Elpida Memory Inc 6665.T and
Taiwan's Mosel Vitelic Inc (2342.TW).
"These companies conspired in an illegal global scheme to
fix prices on chips used in computer equipment sold to
consumers, schools and government offices," Brown said in a
statement. He called the size of the accord a "warning" to
companies that "gouge consumers" through illegal price-fixing.
Thirty-two other U.S. states participated in the accord.
Regulators accused the chipmakers of fixing prices on
dynamic random access memory computer chips, which are widely
used in computers, servers and networking equipment.
Brown said global DRAM sales to large manufacturers such as
Dell Inc DELL.O, Hewlett-Packard Co (HPQ.N) and International
Business Machines Corp (IBM.N) exceed $17 billion a year.
He said a related federal investigation led to guilty pleas
to criminal price fixing by Elpida, Hynix, Infineon, Samsung
Electronics Co (005930.KS), and 12 individuals.
Last month, European Union regulators fined those four
chipmakers and five others a total of 331 million euros (US
$409 million) over price-fixing. [ID:nLDE64l199]
Brown said Thursday's accord resolves two lawsuits brought
by the state, as well as lawsuits by private plaintiffs.
It calls for payments of $173 million plus interest over
two years, and requires court approval.
Brown, a Democrat, is running against former eBay Inc
(EBAY.O) Chief Executive Meg Whitman to succeed Arnold
Schwarzenegger as California governor. Brown previously held
that office from 1975 to 1983.
The cases are California et al. v. Infineon Technologies AG
et al, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California,
No. 06-04333, and City of Los Angeles et al v. Infineron
Technologies AG et al, Superior Court of California, County of
San Francisco, No. 08-480561.
(1 euro = US$1.236)
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel, editing by Matthew Lewis)