Court Certifies Price-Fixing Class-Action Lawsuit
SAN FRANCISCO – A U.S. District Court judge Monday certified a proposed class-action lawsuit against Micron Technologies (NYSE: MU) and a number of other computer memory manufacturers, claiming the companies illegally conspired to fix the price of computer memory.
Filed in 2002, the suit asserts that Micron and other manufacturers of Dynamic Random Access Memory (DRAM) reached an agreement to limit the productions to bolster sagging prices.
The defendants in the case controlled a vast majority of DRAM production at the time of filing, an industry with revenue estimated at $20 billion.
"As a result of conducting exhaustive discovery, we are very confident that we can show that a price-fixing conspiracy was in play," said Tony Shapiro, one of the lead attorneys representing the plaintiffs. "We believe that this case is the best way - perhaps the only way - for the plaintiffs to recover damages."
DRAM is a necessary component in a wide variety of electronics including personal computers, cellular telephones, digital cameras and many other devices. DRAM allows for the storage and retrieval of electronic data.
The suit was brought by 11 technology companies that purchased DRAM from Micron who claim they overpaid for DRAM because of the alleged price-fixing scheme. Now certified as a class action, the suit represents thousands of companies in the U.S. that purchased DRAM from the defendants.
According to the complaint, beginning in 1999 the price for DRAM began falling dramatically, dipping below the cost of production. Then, in September 2001, DRAM prices spiked and by February 2002 reached as high as $4.50, the complaint states.
In mid-2002, media reports cited statements by DRAM manufacturer Mosel-Vitelic's vice president Thomas Chang that the company held price-fixing meetings with other manufacturers where they agreed to reduce production to boost prices.
In 2002, the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice began an investigation of price-fixing by a number of the defendants.
"The ruling is an important step in our efforts to hold Micron and the other defendants accountable," Shapiro added.
The original lawsuit claiming antitrust violations under The Sherman Act by Micron and other defendants was filed in June of 2002, and after a number of similar suits were filed, the cases were consolidated and moved to U.S. District Court in San Francisco.
The lawsuit asks the court to issue a permanent injunction to end the price-fixing activities, and award the plaintiffs and members of the class damages, which are trebled under antitrust laws.
United States District Judge Phyllis J. Hamilton granted every aspect of the plaintiffs' motion to certify the class, rejecting numerous arguments put forth by the defendants. The certified class includes anyone who purchased DRAM directly from the defendants between April 1, 1999 and June 22, 2002.
The defendants are Micron Technology, Inc.; Micron Semiconductor Products, Inc.; Crucial Technology, Inc.; Infineon Technologies AG; Infineon Technologies North America Corp.; Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd.; Samsung Semiconductor, Inc.; Mosel Vitelic Corporation; Mosel Vitelic Corporation (USA); Nanya Technology Corporation; Nanya Technology Corporation USA; Winbond Electronics Corporation; Winbond Electronics Corporation America; Elpida Memory, Inc.; Elpida Memory (USA), Inc.; and NEC Electronics America, Inc.
Copies of the complaint and class-certification order are available for viewing at www.hbsslaw.com.
About Tony Shapiro
Tony Shapiro is a partner with the law firm Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP, with offices in Seattle, Cambridge, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Phoenix. The firm has developed a nationally recognized practice in class-action litigation. The firm is co-lead counsel in litigation to recover losses from Enron employees' retirement funds, and represented Washington and 12 other states in lawsuits against the tobacco industry that resulted in the largest settlement in the history of litigation. The firm also served as counsel in several other high-profile cases including the Washington Public Power Supply litigation, which resulted in a settlement of more than $850 million, and the $92.5 million settlement of The Boeing Company litigation. Other notable cases include litigation involving the Exxon Valdez oil spill, Average Wholesale Price Drug litigation, United Airlines litigation, Exxon Mobile Securities litigation, Louisiana Pacific Siding litigation, TAP Pharmaceutical's Lupron litigation, and SmithKline Beecham's Paxil Litigation.
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