JA Offers Help for De Beers Claims

Jewelers of America will provide instructions and details to its members in the coming weeks regarding the claims process for the De Beers settlement, to ensure that they are prepared to obtain the claims form and begin the filing process in late December.

“Jewelers of America welcomes the news that the De Beers settlement process will soon get underway,” said Matthew A. Runci, JA president and chief executive officer.

Runci added that JA and its counsel have had significant involvement and input into the settlement process and timing.

In mid-April 2008, the court will hold a hearing to determine whether the settlement should receive final approval. If it is approved, U.S. consumers and “reseller” members of the trade, who share the majority of the settlement, will have until May 19, 2008, to file their claims.
 
The administrators of the De Beers settlement claims process will send mailed notices to the trade just before Christmas, and will conduct a trade magazine ad campaign starting in January. Publication notice to consumers about the De Beers settlement will also start to appear in newspapers, magazines, and on the Internet just before Christmas, and continue through winter and early spring. In addition, a public relations campaign would start in January to reach the maximum number of consumers who might wish to file a claim.
 
Because the claims process will require consumers to itemize the amount of their purchases of diamond jewelry, it is likely that consumers could ask retailers to research the purchase price of any diamond or diamond jewelry they obtained at their stores between Jan. 1, 1994, and March 31, 2006. JA said it will offer guidance to members after the claims forms have been distributed.
 
While the claims period for jewelers is also Jan. 1, 1994, to March 31, 2006, the trade’s claims form will ask jewelers to pick any two-year period during those years, and to submit the total costs of the diamonds and diamond jewelry they purchased for resale during that time. The claims administrator will use that figure to compute each jeweler’s share of the settlement.
 
Retailers will share proportionately with other “resellers” a settlement portion amounting to $137 million. But the total amount will be reduced by plaintiffs’ attorneys’ fees, for work they performed on the case itself and its settlement, JA said. They can claim up to 25 percent of the total settlement. Also taken from the $137 million will be a portion of the attorneys’ out-of-pocket expenses, settlement administration fees and other expenses. The court will determine the actual amount of attorneys’ fees and expenses to which they will be entitled at the final approval hearing. The remaining amount will be divided among the total number of “reseller” trade members who file.

The payouts themselves will probably not occur until late 2008 or 2009, to allow time for the claims administrators to assess all claims and apportion the funds among the claimants, according to court papers. Any trade claim that amounts to under $25 will not be paid.