The De Beers Class Action Settlement: How Long Will It Drag On?

Note: Update here.

So, the De Beers class action settlement payouts may be delayed again, as the objecting lawyers plan to take their case all the way to the Supreme Court. Some thoughts: 

– Plaintiff lawyer Jared Stamell called me yesterday, disagreeing with the contention that the appeals would add a year or more to the case. A year is certainly possible, he says. But his research shows that a Supreme Court appeal adds, on average, two to six months, assuming the highest court in the land doesn’t take up the case.

– If the nine justices do take it up, however, then we really may be looking at a one to two year time frame. But for now, this seems like a long shot. Most people I talked to believe the Supreme Court has weightier matters on its plate.

Indeed, it’s not clear what the objecting lawyers’ game is here. One would think the they are just trying to force a settlement (and get some cash as a result). And yet, earlier settlement talks dissolved because one objecting lawyer refused to sign on. That might happen again. (That attorney declined comment.)

– One party that wants this over and done with: De Beers. Generally, most companies aren’t too excited about having to pay out a $300 million settlement. But as De Beers CEO Philippe Mellier acknowledged in our interview last month, finishing this lawsuit will allow the once-banned company to increase its U.S. presence: 

We really hope that as soon as possible we can do business in the U.S. in the normal way. We have De Beers stores in the U.S., we have launched Forevermark in the U.S., so we have made good inroads there. We would like to be able to do business in the normal way and grow the business.

Indeed, U.S. companies are still not allowed to participate in the auctions at De Beers subsidiary Diamdel. And in his recent visit to New York, I am told that Mellier met with clients outside their offices, just to err on the side of caution. These aren’t big deals in the scheme of things, but it’s safe to say that De Beers is eager to turn the page on this episode.

– How long has this case dragged on? Some of these lawsuits date back more than a decade. And at least two of the original plaintiffs have died.  

JCK News Director