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Emails allege ATI-Nvidia price fixing conspiracy

'A jury would like to see this'

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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). ®

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