Emails allege ATI-Nvidia price fixing conspiracy
'A jury would like to see this'
New details have been released on the evidence backing a civil lawsuit against Nvidia and ATI (now owned by AMD) - evidence that allegedly indicates the two companies participated in a graphics card price fixing cartel.
In June 2007, at least 51 separate complaints were lumped together and amended into a single class action lawsuit against the GPU vendors in the US District Court of the Northern District of California.
The complaint was filed on behalf of everyone in the US who has bought a graphics card from either ATI or Nvidia from December 2002 to the present. It alleges the companies "conducted numerous secret meetings and communications in which they conspired to fix, raise, maintain and stabilize prices of GPUs sold in the United States."
During the class certification hearing in July, US district Judge William Alsup demanded to see evidence of a conspiracy. When presented with an alleged email exchange between Dan Vivoli of Nvidia and Dave Orton of ATI, he read aloud an enticing piece of the text:
I really think we should work harder together on the marketing front. As you and I have talked about, even though we are competitors, we have the common goal of making our category a well positioned, respected playing field. $5 and $8 stocks are a result of no respect.
"That's not good for defense," Alsup said after reading the email. "A jury would like to see this."
Alas, so would we. Fortunately, Tom's Hardware now says it has its mitts on the entire document. The story and email PDFs are here.
What's added is a bit more heft to the evidence that Alsup called "not a home run [but] a base hit" for the prosecution.
Here's an alleged Vivoli chestnut that may suggest collusion:
Both of us have spent the last three years trying to bring the perceived value of our products up to the level of Intel. The "GPU" category is clean and has served us well that way. We both have increased the price of our high end product several fold over the last 4 years while Intel’s high end prices have more than halved. Creating another category serves to work contradictory to that. How does one cleanly position it versus a GPU and a CPU?? It will tear down what we have both built.
A more detailed breakdown of the case, including charts illustrating pricing and release schedules before and after the alleged conspiracy period can be found in the complaint (PDF warning). ®
Where's the beef?
I skimmed all those screen shots. I see a lot of slides jawing about marketing teams agreeing on the term "GPU" to mutually help each other vs. monopolist Intel, and I see some talk about marketing guys not being too "harsh" on each others products.
This is hardly price fixing.
There is one chart showing prices during the alleged conspiracy period, but I frankly don't trust it; there are so many ways to spin that pricing data of competitive products by picking which two products you compare. Perhaps there's a story there but it needs a lot firmer evidence than that!
BTW, I believe Dave Orton and Dan Vivoli both were at SGI at the same period, pre-PC-graphics. Not that that's evidence pro or anti-conspiracy, but indicates a trust relationship they have likely precedes talks between themselves at their currently-competitive employers.
All I want to know is...
...why there are only two major 3D graphics card makers. A lack of competition is the scariest part of all this IMO.
News Article Left Out Crucial Detail (if same suit)
From what I recall, this suit is a class action only for those who bought the cards directly from ATI or nVidia's website, not the overly vague onto the point of potentially being misunderstood phrase "everyone in the US who has bought a graphics card from either ATI or Nvidia from December 2002 to the present".
If the card was bought anywhere else you aren't a member of the class, which is unfortunate as I lost track of how many dozens of cards I and others had bought elsewhere during this period.
Some video cards have certainly been at good price points but others were ridiculous. It's just plain excessive when a card costs over $250 for example, even if gold plated and wearing baby seal slippers.
sounds more like marketing cooperation to promote nVidia and ATI video cards status
Hi, I don't see antitrust here but it would have been if the just remained competitors. After all Intel and AMD have cross licensing agreements, they share technology, they need each other, thats why almost the same sockets, cpu design, etc.
Why would ATI and Nvidia Collude?
ATI cards are shit if you want a good game card its always pick NVIDIA.
Looking angryily at the two ATI's I purchased and then binned because they were rubbish. They do come in nice boxes though.
Oh just thought of a good use for an ATI card. Its just the right size to stop my desk for rocking. I take it all back it was £100 well spent
Paris because my ATI card wouldn't even play her video without stuttering...or maybe that was me