Sony Pulled Into Memory Probe

The company's U.S. unit gets a DOJ subpoena for information about its SRAM business.
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As if

Sony

(SNE) - Get Report

didn't already have enough headaches, it has now been swept into the U.S. government probe of the memory industry.

In a short statement released Tuesday, Sony said that its U.S. subsidiary Sony Electronics received a subpoena from the Justice Department seeking information about its SRAM business.

Earlier this month,

Cypress Semiconductor

(CY) - Get Report

and

Mitsubishi Electric

both disclosed that they had received DOJ subpoenas regarding their SRAM businesses.

The subpoenas appear to open a new front in the government's investigation of computer-memory chipmakers. For several years, the Justice Department has been investigating price-fixing in the market for DRAM, the standard type of memory chips used in PC's.

The DRAM price-fixing probe has so far resulted in jail sentences for executives at

Samsung

,

Hynix Semiconductor

and

Infineon Technologies

(IFX)

, as well as more than $700 million in fines.

Static memory, which is faster and more expensive than DRAM, is used for specialty purposes like a microprocessor's cache and hard disc drives.

According to news reports, Sony buys SRAM from outside manufacturers and sells it to other electronics companies. Sony sold $27.7 million worth of SRAM in 2005.

Sony said it intends to fully cooperate with the DOJ in "what appears to be an industrywide inquiry."

The memory investigation is the latest in a string of bad news for Sony, which has been plagued by delays for its PlayStation 3 video game console and a massive laptop battery recall that will result in charges of more than $400 million.

Shares of Sony were off 0.8%, or 35 cents, at $41.20 in midday trading.