Is De Beers Now Coming to America?

As De Beers’ press people have been happy to tell the world, the judge in its anti-trust case approved (verbally, at least) its final anti-trust settlement, beating back an impassioned objection from Martin Rapaport, who argued the injunctive relief wasn’t strong enough.

The company’s spokeswoman called it “a great day for De Beers.” Now, generally companies aren’t quite so happy about giving away $300 million. But De Beers seems to see it as the end of its 60-year-battle with the U.S. court system over anti-trust issues. And, as such, it is a pretty remarkable acheivement. So, nice job, though I think many people in America are nervous about what all this might mean.
 
For example:

– With all legal obstacles seemingly out of the way, will De Beers try to establish a presence in the United States? And if so, when? (For the record, its spokespeople keep saying, “It’s business as usual in the United States.” But no one I know believes that.)

– If they do enter the U.S., will that mean any changes to its current U.S. advertising policy? (Specifically, some wonder about the introduction of the Forevermark, which is currently being offered in just about every market but this one.)

– Where does the W.B. David case, currently being “re-filed,” figure in all this?

Meanwhile, prowling around the relevant court documents, I found some interesting stats. As of March 31, Rust Consulting, the claims administrator for the anti-trust suit, has received 431,380 consumer claim forms, 2,502  reseller (meaning trade) claim forms, and nine direct purchaser class forms (meaning people who purchased directly from De Beers or other miners.) 

They also said that the settlement site has received nearly two million visits. Certainly it seems like there is heavy consumer interest. Quite a few retailers at the AGS Conclave told me they get consumer queries about the settlement pretty regularly.

As far as the claim forms, the number of trade filings seems pretty low, especially compared to the consumer number. I certainly advise all JCK readers to file your forms. The money may not be a lot — according to the documents, the proposed minimum payment is $10 — but it is legally yours.  Here is the site: www.diamondsclassaction.com.  And those direct purchasers look like they will truly clean up.

But of course, the biggest winners here are the lawyers, who have requested the court to grant them 25% of the final settlement. Which is somewhere in the neighborhood of $75 million.

JCK News Director