Chipmakers balk at U.S. survey arguing information is secret
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The United States is asking chipmakers for confidential information, and Korean companies are saying that they might have a hard time complying.
Last week, the U.S. Department of Commerce made a request to major chipmakers, including Samsung Electronics, Intel and TSMC, for sales figures, inventory totals, the names of largest clients and the share of sales to these clients.
The U.S. issued the request last Thursday during a chip summit. It said it is seeking “to understand and quantify where bottlenecks may exist.”
A deadline of Nov. 8 has been set.
Compliance is voluntary, and the data is being collected as part of what has been described as a survey.
“The information requested by the U.S. government is considered really sensitive since it includes data about customers,” said a source at a company that has been asked to comply. Non-disclosure agreements are common between semiconductor manufacturers and their clients to keep the details of their orders confidential.
“It mentioned that the survey is voluntary, but local chipmakers would perceive it to be obligatory given that the Biden administration indicated that it could leverage the Defense Production Act to penalize the companies that fail to comply,” the source added. The Defense Production Act gives the U.S. president the authority to direct private companies to work with the government in providing essential goods.
The commerce department said domestic and foreign semiconductor design firms, semiconductor manufacturers and materials and equipment suppliers were included in the inquiry in addition to the tech firms participating in the meeting. Major car and electronics companies, including Apple, Ford and General Motors, were at the meeting.
The survey has 14 questions and asks the companies to name their top three customers for each product and disclose the “estimated percentage of that product's sales accounted for by each customer.” It also asks about inventory levels of semiconductor products, production processes, current capacity and plans about increasing capacity.
Samsung Electronics plans to invest at least $17 billion in the U.S. with Taylor, Texas considered the most likely site.
For the users of semiconductors, the commerce department survey asks about chips that are currently in short supply and the impact of the shortage.
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