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Samsung Korean Executive Agrees to Plead Guilty
Headline News | 2006/12/22 18:59

WASHINGTON — An executive from Samsung Electronics Company Ltd..– the world’s largest manufacturer of a common computer component called dynamic random access memory (DRAM) – has agreed to plead guilty, serve jail time in the United States, and pay a fine for participating in a global conspiracy to fix DRAM prices, the Department of Justice announced.

In total, four companies and 18 individuals have been charged in the Department’s DRAM investigation and criminal fines totaling more than $730 million have resulted. This total reflects the second-largest total amount of fines ever imposed in a U.S. criminal antitrust investigation from a single price-fixing conspiracy. The Korean executive, Young Hwan Park, participated in the price-fixing conspiracy while in his capacity as Vice President of Sales at Korean memory maker Samsung Electronics Company Ltd. Park is currently President of Samsung Semiconductor Inc., Samsung’s U.S.-based subsidiary. Park is charged with participating in a conspiracy in the U.S. and elsewhere to suppress and eliminate competition by fixing the prices of DRAM to be sold to certain original equipment manufacturers of personal computers and servers (OEMs), in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act.

“This latest plea underscores our resolve to hold responsible those who target U.S. businesses and consumers with price-fixing schemes,” said Thomas O. Barnett, Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Department’s Antitrust Division. “Individuals who choose to engage in price fixing are on notice of the consequences of their illegal actions – criminal fines and prison time.”

Under the plea agreement, which must be approved by the court, Park has agreed to serve 10 months in prison and to pay a criminal fine of $250,000. In addition, Park has agreed to assist the government in its ongoing investigation.

DRAM is the most commonly used semiconductor memory product, providing high-speed storage and retrieval of electronic information for a wide variety of computer, telecommunication, and consumer electronic products. DRAM is used in personal computers, laptops, workstations, servers, printers, hard disk drives, personal digital assistants, modems, mobile phones, telecommunication hubs and routers, digital cameras, video recorders and TVs, digital set top boxes, game consoles, and digital music players. There were approximately $7.7 billion in DRAM sales in the U.S. in 2004.

According to the one-count felony charge filed today in federal court in San Francisco, Park conspired with unnamed employees from other memory makers to fix the prices of DRAM sold to certain OEMs from on or about April 1, 2001, to on or about June 15, 2002. The violation directly affected sales to U.S. computer makers Dell Inc., Hewlett-Packard Company, Compaq Computer Corporation, International Business Machines Corporation, Apple Computer Inc., and Gateway Inc., the Department said.

Park is charged with carrying out the price-fixing conspiracy by:

∙ Participating in meetings, conversations, and communications with competitors to discuss the prices of DRAM to be sold to certain customers;

∙ Agreeing with competitors to charge prices of DRAM at certain levels to be sold to certain customers;

∙ Issuing price quotations in accordance with the agreements reached; ∙ Exchanging information on sales of DRAM to certain customers, for the purpose of monitoring and enforcing adherence to agreed-upon prices; and

∙ Directing subordinates to contact competitors to obtain DRAM pricing information for the purpose of fixing prices.

This is the fifth Samsung executive to agree to a prison sentence in the DRAM investigation. Three foreign-based Samsung executives and one U.S. executive have already pleaded guilty and agreed to serve prison terms ranging from seven to eight months and to each pay a $250,000 fine. In April 2006, Sun Woo Lee and Yeongho Kang pleaded guilty to participating in the price-fixing conspiracy while they worked for Samsung or its subsidiaries in the U.S. In August 2006, Young Woo Lee pleaded guilty to participating in the price-fixing conspiracy while he worked for Samsung or its subsidiaries in Europe. Then, in November 2006, Thomas Quinn, a San Jose, Calif. executive, pleaded guilty to participating in the price-fixing conspiracy in his capacity as vice president of marketing for memory products at Samsung Semiconductor Inc.

In December 2006, a former Elpida executive, D. James Sogas, pleaded guilty for his participation in the DRAM conspiracy and was sentenced to serve seven months in jail and to pay a $250,000 fine. In addition, four Hynix Semiconductor Inc., executives, Dae Soo Kim, Chae Kyun Chung, Kun Chul Suh, and Choon Yub Choi, were charged with participating in the DRAM price-fixing conspiracy and agreed to plead guilty and serve jail terms ranging from five to eight months and to each pay a $250,000 fine. In December 2004, four Infineon executives, T. Rudd Corwin, Peter Schaefer, Gunter Hefner, and Heinrich Florian, pleaded guilty to the DRAM price-fixing conspiracy. The Infineon employees served jail terms ranging from four to six months and each paid a $250,000 fine.

Also, in December 2003 the Department charged Alfred Censullo, a Regional Sales Manager for Micron Technology Inc., with obstruction of justice. Censullo pleaded guilty and admitted to having withheld and altered documents responsive to a grand jury subpoena served on Micron. Censullo was sentenced to serve six months of home detention.

Samsung pleaded guilty to the price-fixing conspiracy and was sentenced to pay a $300 million criminal fine in November 2005. Hynix, the world’s second-largest DRAM manufacturer, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to pay a $185 million criminal fine in May 2005. In January 2006, Japanese manufacturer Elpida Memory agreed to plead guilty and pay an $84 million fine. In October 2004, German manufacturer Infineon pleaded guilty and was sentenced to pay a $160 million criminal fine.

In October 2006, a federal grand jury in San Francisco returned a single-count indictment against two executives from Samsung, Il Ung Kim and Young Bae Rha, and one executive from Hynix, Gary Swanson, for violation of Section 1 of the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1.

Today’s charge is the result of an ongoing investigation being conducted by the Antitrust Division’s San Francisco office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation in San Francisco.



17 Guantanamo detainees sent home
Headline News | 2006/12/17 23:16

The U.S. military repatriated 18 detainees from Guantanamo Bay over the weekend to Afghanistan, Yemen, Kazakhstan, Libya and Bangladesh, a Pentagon spokesman said Sunday.

The men, flown out of the U.S. naval base in southeastern Cuba on Friday, were all transferred to the custody of governments in their native countries except for one Yemeni detainee, who was released without conditions, said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Chito Peppler.

The detainees, held for years at the isolated detention center without being charged, were cleared for departure by a military review process that assesses whether detainees have intelligence value or pose a threat to the United States. The military does not provide details about individual cases.

Since the prison opened in January 2002, about 380 detainees have been released from Guantanamo. About 395 prisoners are still held on suspicion of links to al-Qaida or the Taliban, including roughly 85 others cleared to leave for other countries, Peppler said.



Nebraska's Ban On Corporate Farming Shot Down
Headline News | 2006/12/14 15:44

The US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit ruled Wednesday that a 1982 ban on corporate farming in Nebraska is unconstitutional because it violates the dormant commerce clause. The federal appeals court upheld a lower court decision, which was appealed by the state attorney general. As described by the appeals court, the ban "prohibits corporations or syndicates (non-family-owned limited partnerships) from acquiring an interest in 'real estate used for farming or ranching in or engaging in farming or ranching,' with certain exceptions," and the court found that this "discriminates against out-of-state entities both on its face and because of its discriminatory intent."

The lower court also ruled that the corporate farming ban violated the Americans with Disabilities Act because it requires at least one member of the family who owns the farm to be involved with day-to-day physical farming activities, but the appeals court did not address this issue. Nebraska could appeal Wednesday's decision to the US Supreme Court, but in 2004 the high court refused to hear an appeal of a similar ruling from the Eighth Circuit declaring South Dakota's corporate farming law unconstitutional.



"Girls Gone Wild" Sentenced to Pay $1.6 Million
Headline News | 2006/12/13 12:49
Mantra Films, Inc., a Santa Monica, Calif. company operating as Girls Gone Wild, was sentenced today to pay $1.6 million in criminal fines for failing to create and maintain age and identity records for films it produced, Assistant Attorney General Alice S. Fisher of the Criminal Division, and U.S. Attorney Gregory Miller for the Northern District of Florida announced today.

The sentence was imposed today by U.S. District Judge Richard Smoak at the federal court in Panama City, Fla.

Mantra pleaded guilty on Sept. 12, 2006 to three counts of failing to keep the required records and seven labeling violations in connection with Mantra's production of Girls Gone Wild films containing depictions of sexually explicit conduct. Each count refers to a different film produced or distributed by Mantra. Mantra admitted that it failed to create and maintain age and identity documents for performers in sexually explicit films produced and distributed by Girls Gone Wild and failed to label their DVDs and videotapes, as required by federal law.

Joseph Francis, founder and CEO of both Mantra Films and MRA Holdings, LLC, pleaded guilty to similar offenses in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles and is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 22, 2007. MRA also entered into an agreement that defers prosecution of criminal charges against the company for three years, if MRA abides by an agreement with the government. The package agreement with Mantra, MRA and Francis includes a public acknowledgment of criminal wrongdoing, a pledge of cooperation with the government in future investigations, full compliance with the record keeping laws, and payment of a total of $2.1 million in fines and restitution.

The charges in this case are the first to be filed under a law passed by Congress to prevent the sexual exploitation of children. The law protects against the use of minors in the production of pornography by requiring producers to create and maintain age and identity records for every performer in sexually explicit movies and other media. Producers and distributors must then label their products with the name of the custodian of the records and their location.

Girls Gone Wild has admitted to hiring performers, and producing and distributing sexually explicit video materials during 2002 and part of 2003 while systematically violating the record keeping and labeling laws. The companies also admitted that in at least two instances in 2002 in Panama City they filmed minors in sexually explicit scenes that were included in two commercially released DVDs.

The cases are being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Sheila Phillips of the Obscenity Prosecution Task Force of the U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Attorney Gregory Miller, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Dixie Morrow of the Northern District of Florida. The Justice Department's Obscenity Prosecution Task Force was formed to focus on the prosecution of adult obscenity nationwide. The Task Force is directed by Brent D. Ward. Investigation of the cases was conducted by Special Agent Denise Conrad of the Adult Obscenity Squad of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which is based in Washington, D.C.



Maryland high court considers same-sex marriage ban
Headline News | 2006/12/05 20:43

The Maryland Court of Appeals heard oral arguments on Monday in a case challenging a 1973 state law banning same-sex marriage. Plaintiffs, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), argued that marriage is a fundamental right which should not be denied according to the parties' genders. In response, Maryland Attorney General Robert Zarnoch argued that no court in the country has identified same-sex marriage as a fundamental right, and he urged the court to defer to the legislature. The state is appealing a January ruling by the Baltimore City Circuit Court in which the law was held to be discriminatory and unconstitutional.

Currently, Massachusetts is the only state to allow same-sex marriage, which was legalized when the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts ruled in 2003 that a ban on such marriages was unconstitutional. Several cases similar to the Maryland case have been decided or are pending in other states including California, New Jersey, Washington, Tennessee, Nebraska, and Connecticut.



US House to vote on Mexico offshore drilling bill
Headline News | 2006/12/03 00:49

Republicans in the US House of Representatives agreed Friday to vote on a compromise offshore drilling bill on Tuesday under special rules that limit amendments and generally speed up proceedings, but require a two-thirds majority for approval. If passed, the bill would allow oil and gas drilling in about 8.3 million acres of federal waters in the eastern-central Gulf and boost federal royalty shares from two percent to 37.5 percent in Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. Environmental leaders, however, oppose the measure, especially in light of the GOP's pending loss of majority rule.

The Senate passed the compromise bill, 71-25, in August, limiting offshore expansion to the Gulf of Mexico. The bill passed by the House in June, the Deep Ocean Energy Resources Act, would have ended the offshore drilling moratorium on 85 percent of the coastal waters surrounding the US.



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