De Beers Says Settlement Approved

De Beers said it “welcomes” recent comments by the judge handling its class-action case that the antitrust settlement will be approved.

While the judge has not issued a final ruling, comments by the presiding judge indicated approval of the settlement, said spokeswoman Lynette Gould.

The settlement’s approval could mean that the company’s long-running dispute with the American government over antitrust issues has finally ended, and De Beers will be able to establish a formal business presence in the United States. However, Gould would say only, “It’s business as usual in America.”

The $300 million settlement was in response to a spate of lawsuits charging that De Beers’ past actions violated U.S. antitrust laws. The money is being distributed to the trade and consumers through forms available on the Web site diamondsclassaction.com.

Rust Consulting, the claims administrator for the antitrust suit, said in court documents as of March 31 it has received 431,380 consumer claim forms, 2,502 reseller (trade) claim forms, and nine direct-purchaser-class forms. The latter refers to people who purchased directly from De Beers or other miners. It also said the settlement site has received nearly 2 million visits.

Industry commentator Martin Rapaport had filed an objection to the settlement, arguing the antitrust remedies stipulated as injunctive relief were not sufficient. Rapaport’s filing argued that De Beers should be banned from buying diamonds “from any third parties” unless it files an economic-impact statement showing its actions do not hurt competitive markets. The judge appears to have rejected that logic.

A De Beers statement said, “We believe that settling these class actions allows us to put these matters behind us and is in the best interests of our shareholders, clients, and the consumer. Nothing is more important to De Beers than consumers’ confidence in diamonds, and it is important for consumers to understand that this settlement in no way affects the value of their diamonds. The appeal and value of diamonds has never been higher. Diamonds are worth as much today—if not more—than they ever have been.”