Tuesday, November 20th 2018

DRAM Price-Fix Uncovered in China, 'Massive Evidence' Against Samsung, SK Hynix and Micron

The Chinese State Administration for Market Regulation has been conducting an anti-monopoly investigation of the global Dynamic RAM market. According to an interview of Wu Zenghou (bureau's head) in the Financial Times, this process has found "massive evidence" against the three companies (Samsung, Hynix, and Micron) that are responsible for the vast majority of this segment. "The anti-monopoly investigation into these three companies has made important progress", points out the investigator. On April these three companies were hit with a price-fixing suit on the same matter in the US, and this investigation seems to confirm those reports.

There is even an older precedent, as Samsung and Hynix were fined both by the US Department of Justice in 2005 and by the European Commission in 2010 on price-fixing allegations. The charges now are similar, and if the companies are found guilty, they could face fines of over $2.5 billion. Some analysts suggest this investigation could be part of the trade war between China and the US, with the former trying to get some leverage pushing the Chinese semiconductor company Fujian Jinhua Integrated Circuit as a bigger player on this market. One that, by the way, is being investigated on allegations of misappropriated trade secrets from Micron. Samsung and SK Hynix have accused China DRAM makers of industrial espionage, too.
Source: Financial Times
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49 Comments on DRAM Price-Fix Uncovered in China, 'Massive Evidence' Against Samsung, SK Hynix and Micron

#1
FordGT90Concept
"I go fast!1!11!1!"
They don't need fines, they need to trust bust. Seize all of the memory-manufacturing assets from all three manufacturers and divvy them up as evenly as possible across 10+ new entities with enforceable, contractual obligations to not buy each other out nor collaborate for a decade. There needs to be a multinational task force assigned to this so they won't find safe haven any where.
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#2
Gasaraki
Stop spreading the FUD around. You know this is a sham when they say they'll drop the fine if they share technology with them.
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#3
R0H1T
Ford this shouldn't happen simply because of the fact that the business is so capital intensive that only the biggest & the best can afford to be on the leading edge of manufacturing DRAM, or NAND for that matter. The last time Samsung decided to expand capacity it cost them nearly $30 billion & that's a conservative estimate, granted it includes DRAM & NAND both.
https://www.anandtech.com/show/12498/samsung-preps-to-build-another-multibillion-dollar-memory-fab-near-pyeongtaek

The alternative is a China owned FJIC, which probably is even worse, lest we forget what China has done to every other industry. Now if it proven without doubt that there was collusion, then all 3 need to be fined hard. But in case of Chinese courts there will always be doubts over their due process, fairness et al.
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#4
bonehead123
$2.5B divided among 3 companies....puufffff

That's chump change to them, and they will just write a check to cover it.... this is equivalent to sentencing some famous, well-known rich dude to 6 months in one of those "country club prisons"

But if ya insist on imposing fines, then make 'em big enough so they will REALLY hurt.....like, maybe, like $250b for EACH company

Or better yet, just shut them down for 1 year for each and every infraction and take away all their corp jets, expense accounts etc etc.....make the people responsible for this activity actually feel da burn !!!!!!!!
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#5
Fx
How many times do they need to get busted before they stop doing this?

I say that they need to immediately increase the fines tenfold for any repeating offender starting on the second instance.
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#6
TheinsanegamerN
bonehead123, post: 3945826, member: 139670"
$2.5B divided among 3 companies....puufffff

That's chump change to them, and they will just write a check to cover it.... this is equivalent to sentencing some famous, well-known rich dude to 6 months in one of those "country club prisons"

But if ya insist on imposing fines, then make 'em big enough so they will REALLY hurt.....like, maybe, like $250b for EACH company

Or better yet, just shut them down for 1 year for each and every infraction and take away all their corp jets, expense accounts etc etc.....make the people responsible for this activity actually feel da burn !!!!!!!!
Congratulations on your agrarian communist society I guess? Shutting down a company for a year over an infraction would cause economic turmoil worse then the crash of 29.

Just stick with the larger fine. that $2.5B fine should be per company, not split between them, then scaled up based on the profit they gained from the jacked up prices.
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#7
FordGT90Concept
"I go fast!1!11!1!"
R0H1T, post: 3945811, member: 131092"
Ford this shouldn't happen simply because of the fact that the business is so capital intensive that only the biggest & the best can afford to be on the leading edge of manufacturing DRAM, or NAND for that matter. The last time Samsung decided to expand capacity it cost them nearly $30 billion & that's a conservative estimate, granted it includes DRAM & NAND both.
https://www.anandtech.com/show/12498/samsung-preps-to-build-another-multibillion-dollar-memory-fab-near-pyeongtaek
No excuse for price fixing.

R0H1T, post: 3945811, member: 131092"
The alternative is a China owned FJIC, which probably is even worse, lest we forget what China has done to every other industry. Now if it proven without doubt that there was collusion, then all 3 need to be fined hard. But in case of Chinese courts there will always be doubts over their due process, fairness et al.
FJIC has 0% marketshare right now. Address that problem if and when it becomes one.


DRAM price fixing has been going on off and on for over a decade.
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#8
windwhirl
Please remember that normal, not just evil and greedy, people, work in those companies. Regulators can't go overboard with the fines or the economic penalties. But, what they could do is, grab the CEOs, the boards of directors and everybody involved and punish them, as harsh as possible. With life sentences for those that try a second time.
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#9
Nephilim666
windwhirl, post: 3945896, member: 175818"
Please remember that normal, not just evil and greedy, people, work in those companies. Regulators can't go overboard with the fines or the economic penalties. But, what they could do is, grab the CEOs, the boards of directors and everybody involved and punish them, as harsh as possible. With life sentences for those that try a second time.
This.

If they're fined they just increase prices to cover the fines.
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#10
Mistral
"And that's why it's fine that we steal their IP."
- Communist Party of China
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#11
dirtyferret
kind of reminds me of the story of the politician complaining someone stole his bribe
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#14
rtwjunkie
PC Gaming Enthusiast
Ok, so you don’t like the source....read whatever you want then. Just wow....
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#15
Prima.Vera
This smells Political all the way to the roof. However, the fine it's just peanuts money for those callous companies, it should have been at least 10x times bigger, and also to include some non-financial penalties.
On the other hand having a Chinese State competitor for those 3 companies, which btw, are also backed hugely up by the Government (eg: Samsung) means lower prices for the end user in the end...
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#17
R0H1T
FordGT90Concept, post: 3945871, member: 60463"
No excuse for price fixing.


FJIC has 0% marketshare right now. Address that problem if and when it becomes one.


DRAM price fixing has been going on off and on for over a decade.
Yes & there's different levels of collusion that need to be dealt with accordingly. For instance ~ have the 3 colluded to restrict supply or actually fix prices, there's a difference, possibly both?

You're ignoring the other elephant in the room, if CCP didn't want the IP for China then the callousness wrt FJIC would make sense. Not right now though, since China has made it clear they want high tech patents & will do anything to get their hands on it.

We're basically choosing between two evils, IMO (shared by the others) China cannot be allowed to use this excuse to get their hands on DRAM/NAND patents or use it as a bargaining tool to force the big 3 into some form of tech sharing.

I'm fine with the harshest penalty imposed on them, provided that the evidence & case against them is water tight. However breaking them up or anything similar, such a move that hinders the ability of these firms to invest long term is a big NO as far as I'm concerned.

What many don't get is that the foundry business is too risky & the returns aren't guaranteed ~ just ask Intel how their 10nm is doing. Granted these aren't the same products, nonetheless the risk/reward ratio is spectacularly high.
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#18
rtwjunkie
PC Gaming Enthusiast
timta2, post: 3946143, member: 47844"
I'd say it's unrelated. Take a look at all of the huge losses in technology stocks on Wall Street today and over the last couple of months.
The point was that the alleged collusion hasn’t helped them, ESPECIALLY Micron, since prices keep dropping anyway.
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#19
moproblems99
I am against any technology going to China in this manner. If they can develop it, great. If they can lure engineers, great (without kidnapping). Honestly, I think this is purely them playing games to get tech. However, we all pretty much know they have been price fixing the whole time.

Fines don't work as the fines will be passed off through the chain. Breaking them up isn't feasible because of the industry. What would actually persuade a comfy CEO or board, for that matter?

Prison time. The question is who's prison?
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#20
Prima.Vera
moproblems99, post: 3946162, member: 155919"
Prison time. The question is who's prison?
Unfortunately those big corporations are not run by 1 single dude, but by a Board of Directors, including state officials. So you cannot just punish 1 person for the whole Cartel of price fixation. The evil is rooted deeply inside those companies unfortunately....
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#21
AnarchoPrimitiv
FordGT90Concept, post: 3945804, member: 60463"
They don't need fines, they need to trust bust. Seize all of the memory-manufacturing assets from all three manufacturers and divvy them up as evenly as possible across 10+ new entities with enforceable, contractual obligations to not buy each other out nor collaborate for a decade. There needs to be a multinational task force assigned to this so they won't find safe haven any where.
Wow, I totally agree with shattering these entities to the same degree as Standard Oil and AT&T and am both glad and surprised someone else here thinks that something more forceful can and should be done in such situations. I do however, disagree with the establishment of a governing body and/or any other permanent institution as essentially every institution established in perpetuity becomes bloated, corrupt, toothless and bought off with by an army of lobbyists armed to the teeth with corporate cash. Instead I would establish a body with an explicitly defined objective and period of time in which to operate. I'd go even further and arm that temporary body with legislation establishing a defined maximum ratio between the cost of production and the MSRP for consumers and pricing for intra-industry sales for any products sold by these entities.

That, or I'd just forcefully seize and nationalize 51% of each corporation's cumulative assets and holdings and enforce total transparency of their accounting for a defined period of time to be provided openly to the public.

There's definitely ONE thing I don't want to hear anyone say as in inherently limits the means to change these companies' behavior while simultaneously disempowering individuals of the general public who might not be shareholders, but are nevertheless stakeholders in the machinations of these entities: "let's vote with our money on this one"....because individuals have far l, far less money that these corporate and thus far fewer votes creating a clear tyranny of the majority.
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#22
moproblems99
Prima.Vera, post: 3946175, member: 98685"
Unfortunately those big corporations are not run by 1 single dude, but by a Board of Directors, including state officials
That's ok. The whole board goes. Most likely, they all knew anyway.

AnarchoPrimitiv, post: 3946180, member: 168101"
That, or I'd just forcefully seize and nationalize 51% of each corporation's cumulative assets and holdings and enforce total transparency of their accounting for a defined period of time to be provided openly to the public.
So, who get's to nationalize a multinational company?
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#23
AnarchoPrimitiv
People in general need to stop conceiving of punishment for these corporate entities in terms of fines, as these businesses are financial powerhouses with ample access to capital and a hired army of mercenary accountants so adept at manipulating numbers that no politician or government institution has the skills and resources to unravel them. Likewise, it rarely occurs to those suggesting fines that any punitive measures of the monetary variety are paper tigers inherently susceptible to being nullified and disarmed into mere line items on a cost/profit analysis sheet no more threatening than any other typical expense.
The other inevitably, based on nearly unanimous precedent, is that when fines become the institutionalized norm and the expected extant of corrective measures anticipated by these corporations, it basically habitualizes a culture where moral considerations are only entertained when abiding by them is more profitable than violating them...in other words, if breaking the law and paying the fines is a more profitable means of conducting business than abiding by the law than no other course of action to be taken by these corporations should ever be expected.

More creative and punatice measures need to be taken in order to force these corporations to consider the desires of the STAKEHOLDERS (e.g. the general public) and not just the shareholders.
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#24
hat
Enthusiast
I'm thinking they published this report to gain leverage for their own DRAM business...
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#25
stimpy88
We can only hope that the Chinese do actually find real and damning evidence/proof of collusion and price fixing, then maybe the EU will look at it, then maybe something will get done, that we can all benefit from.
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