updated 4/21/2005 3:17:03 PM ET 2005-04-21T19:17:03

Korean computer chipmaker Hynix Semiconductor Inc. has agreed to plead guilty to price fixing and will pay a $185 million fine, the Justice Department announced Thursday.

In a plea agreement filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, Hynix acknowledged conspiring with other companies to fix prices of widely used computer memory products between April 1999 and June 2002.

The fine is the third-largest imposed in a criminal case by the Justice Department's antitrust division. The 1999 breakup of a vitamin cartel led to a $500 million payment by Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd. and $225 million by BASF AG.

The plea is the second admission by a maker of computer chips in a price-fixing investigation that began in 2002. In September, Infineon Technologies AG of Germany agreed to a $160 million fine.

The victims included some of the world's largest computer companies _ Dell, Hewlett-Packard, IBM and Gateway.

Hynix Semiconductor and other chipmakers produce "dynamic random access memory" products used in digital recorders, personal computers, printers, video recorders, mobile phones and many other electronics. The U.S. market for these products was $7.7 billion last year, Justice said.

The plea agreement must be approved by a federal judge. The company has agreed to cooperate with the government in its ongoing investigation.

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