De Beers Class-Action Suit in Limbo

Retailers who filed claims under the De Beers class-action suit shouldn’t expect to receive their money anytime soon.

The Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled July 14 that the $295 million antitrust settlement reached in 2008 must be vacated, as a lower court had incorrectly certified a class of indirect purchasers.

That means the court must now review the entire settlement, and it will likely be “many months” before the case is finally put to bed, says plaintiff lawyer Joseph Tabacco, managing partner of Berman DeValerio’s San Francisco office. It’s possible that this ruling may be appealed, or that there could be a new deal with the parties who objected to the $295 million deal on behalf of a certain class of consumers who weren’t able to file claims. (Tabacco calls the lawyers involved “professional objectors.”)

“We view this as a temporary setback,” he adds. “The settlement is still a settlement. I remain optimistic the case will be settled on essentially the same terms. I think all parties want a resolution to this.”

A De Beers spokeswoman said the company is “aware” of the Appeals Court’s opinion and is “considering its implications.” However, inside sources say the company is disappointed, since it hoped that wrapping up the case would finally end its U.S. legal issues.