Oracle Sues Micron, Other Chip-Makers for Price-Fixing

Oracle Sues Micron, Other Chip-Makers for Price-Fixing
Oracle Sues Micron, Other Chip-Makers for Price-Fixing

Oracle (ORCL) has slapped Micron Technology (MU), Samsung (SSNHY), Hynix (HXSCF), Infineon (IFNNY) and other chip-makers with a price-fixing lawsuit, a follow-up punch to the $173 million antitrust settlement that those companies and others reached with state attorneys generals regarding similar allegations several months back.

In the lawsuit filed Friday in a U.S. District Court, Oracle alleged these chip-makers banded together to boost prices and cause its recently acquired Sun Microsystems to overpay for semiconductors, according to a CNBC report.

Three months ago, Micron, Hynix, Infineon and three other chip-makers agreed to an antitrust settlement with 33 states. Samsung had earlier reached a $10 million settlement with the states for similar allegations of price fixing.

In addition to those civil cases, Samsung, Hynix, Infineon and Elpida (ELPDF), along with 12 individuals, pleaded guilty to criminal price fixing charges and agreed to pay fines that exceeded $730 million. The multistate lawsuit, filed in 2006, alleged that, from 1998 to 2002, the companies arranged to jack up prices on dynamic random access memory chips. These DRAM chips are found in computers, laptops, home console games and a host of other gadgets.

Ironically, Oracle's lawsuit was filed at roughly the same time as its CEO Larry Ellison was making statements that his company was planning to add chip companies to its steroid-charged acquisition list. In the past five years, Oracle has snapped up more than 65 companies, primarily software firms that could help it build out its presence in specific industries, and mega-mergers designed to take out rivals.

With some of these chip companies agreeing to multimillion dollar settlements in price-fixing lawsuits, Oracle may find a way to bake a settlement into a lower M&A price for one of them.