The De Beers Antitrust Class Action Settlement … Almost Home

So when we last looked into the ridiculous soap opera that is the De Beers antitrust settlement, we noted that the objecting attorneys planned to take their case to the end of the line: the Supreme Court. 

There were two objectors that could appeal the settlement: One did, but the Supreme Court declined the petition to hear the case in April. And so we were waiting for the second. Well, it turns out that wait is over, according to plaintiff lawyer Joseph Tabacco. The second appellant missed the deadline to file the appeal, which was last Thursday (May 3). Which puts that appealant out of the game.

So, are we there yet? Not quite. It seems the first objector (Murray) filed a motion of reconsideration for the first petition. Not sure what those attorneys think they can accomplish here; the petition has already been flatly turned down, and at this point it’s obvious the Supreme Court has far bigger things on its plate. This move seems to have no other aim but to drag things out further. Which it will, but this delay should at least be relatively brief, Tabacco says: 

We are still waiting for Court to rule in and hopefully deny objector Murray’s motion for reconsideration on the previous denial of his cert.… I assume this will take another couple of weeks. So if it’s denied, the settlement is final by late May. Accordingly we are finalizing claims processing and hope to get checks out to trade claimants by mid- to late June. 

So it’s looking like the checks for the trade will go out in a month or two. Consumers claimants will have a little while longer to wait; Tabacco says there is a “longer lead time” there, but those checks should go out by mid-summer.

Mind you, all the standard provisos apply about not expecting a lot of money—the Jewelers Vigilance Committee’s Cecilia Gardner thinks most trade claimants will get enough money to take their staff out to lunch at a “resturaunt with a tablecloth.” (Meaning, if you are an independent jeweler with three employees, you won’t get that much. Tiffany, far more.) But most consumer claimants, she says, will get enough only for “lunch for one.”

So, after six years—the settlement was first agreed to in 2006—let’s look at who the winners seem to be here. 1) The plaintiff lawyers, who will split an obscene amount of money (around $70 million). To be fair, with all these appeals, they have probably had to spend much more time on this than they originally planned. Still: $70 million. 2) De Beers, because even though it’s had to pay out the not-insignificant sum of $300 million, it is now assured its antitrust problems in America are just about wrapped up. It’s not clear what practical impact that will have—Forevermark is here already—but it will certainly give the company a lot more leeway in how it deals with the U.S.  3) T.G.I. Friday’s. 

JCK News Director