Seagate Technology Holdings has agreed to pay a US$300 million (about RM1.3 billion) penalty in a settlement with US authorities for shipping over US$1.1 billion worth of hard disk drives to China's Huawei in violation of US export control laws, the US Department of Commerce said on Wednesday.
Between August 2020 and September 2021 Seagate sold the drives to Huawei despite a 2020 rule that restricted sales of certain foreign items made with US technology to the company. Huawei was placed on the Entity List, a US trade blacklist in 2019 to reduce the sale of US goods to the company, amid national security and foreign policy concerns.
The penalty represents the latest in a string of actions by Washington to keep sophisticated technology from China that may support its military or enable human rights abuses.
Seagate shipped 7.4 million drives to Huawei for about a year after the 2020 rule took effect and became Huawei's sole supplier of hard drives, the Commerce Department said.
The other two primary suppliers of hard drives ceased shipments to Huawei after the new rule took effect in 2020, the department said. Though they are not identified, Western Digital and Toshiba are the other two, the US Senate Commerce Committee said in a 2021 report on Seagate.
Even after "its competitors had stopped selling to them... Seagate continued sending hard disk drives to Huawei," Matthew Axelrod, the Commerce Department's assistant secretary for export enforcement said in a statement. "Today's action is the consequence."
Seagate's position was that its foreign-made drives were not subject to US export control regulations, essentially because they were not the direct product of US equipment.
In an order issued on Wednesday, the government said Seagate wrongly interpreted the rule to require evaluation of only the last stage of its manufacturing process rather than the entire process.