Feds Widen DRAM Chip Probe

The Justice Department seeks information from Mitsubishi Electric.
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The U.S. government widened the net of a criminal probe into price-fixing among computer memory chip companies, ensnaring Japan's

Mitsubishi Electric


The Tokyo-based electronics conglomerate announced Monday that the Department of Justice recently contacted one of its subsidiaries seeking information about the sale of Mitsubishi Electric DRAM chips in the U.S. between 1998 and 2002.

Mitsubishi Electric, which exited the DRAM business in 2003, is at least the sixth company to get caught up in the investigation. According to Mitsubishi, the DOJ's antitrust division has requested documents and other information about the DRAM business involving Mitsubishi Electric and Electronics USA, as well as its Japanese parent company.

To date, the DOJ probe has resulted in more than $700 million fines and resulted in

jail sentences for executives at several of the world's largest memory chip makers including



Hynix Semiconductor

. The investigation centers on collusion between executives at various chipmakers to set the price of DRAM chips used in personal computers.

According to the DOJ, these actions, which violated the Sherman Act, directly affected sales to companies including


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Apple Computer

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Mitsubishi said it is also a defendant, along with other companies, in several civil lawsuits related to the matter.

Mitsubishi said it was unable to predict the impact of the DOJ request or the civil lawsuits, which could hurt the company's business performance in the future. The company said it would not reassess its business forecast for fiscal year 2006, which it had announced in April.