GIA acknowledges ‘misconduct’ at labs

GIA has acknowledged that “isolated incidents of misconduct” at its noted grading lab prompted the firing last month of four graders.

Following a lawsuit from Max Pincione changing “payments” were made to lab employees to change grades. GIA’s Board of Governors hired the law firm of Thomas F. O’Neil III, a former assistant U.S. attorney, to investigate the allegations, which led to the four graders being terminated. The names of the fired employees were not released

The GIA release did not say what the four graders were fired for, and it is not clear whether the investigation found clear-cut instances of bribery as alleged in the Pincione lawsuit. One source said that, in some cases, the graders were not necessarily fired for outright bribery—for which there is not always solid evidence—as much as graders improperly interacting with lab clients. One grader cooperated with investigators, sources said.

In a statement to JCK, GIA said: “The laboratory employees have been terminated for violating/failing to comply with GIA’s policies. Privacy laws dictate that we cannot be more specific than this.”

Sources stress that the investigation covered a 10-year period and found that the alleged wrongdoing involved only a small number of reports. They added that no wrongdoing was found on the part of lab or GIA management.

GIA also said that it plans to “terminate” clients found to unfairly influence lab grades. “That is currently in the works,” the statement said.

The statement also noted that the GIA had been in contact with law enforcement regarding the investigation. “[Its] results will be turned over to the law enforcement officials with whom the Special Committee has been dealing,” GIA said.

GIA sources said that one suggestion being urged on the Internet—a “recall” of reports—is not taken seriously. However, in its statement to JCK, the GIA did say: “In the event that there is a question about a diamond with an existing GIA Grading Report, our verification service can be utilized to confirm grading information. GIA will offer the verification service on a complimentary basis for a limited time. The client will pay shipping, handling, insurance, but GIA will not charge for the service. It will be an expedited process.”