Antitrust & Intellectual Property

De Beers Diamonds

Result: $295 million settlement and historic injunction
Year: 2008

In one of the most significant appellate decisions this decade in the areas of antitrust and class action law, Lieff Cabraser attorneys and their colleagues prevailed before an en banc panel of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in reversing an appellate panel’s decision and affirming the district court’s order approving the settlement of the De Beers antitrust suits. Sullivan v. DB Investments, 667 F.3d 273 (3rd Cir. 2011) (en banc).

For sixty years, De Beers flaunted U.S. antitrust laws. In 1999, De Beers’ Chairman Nicholas Oppenheimer stated that De Beers “likes to think of itself as the world’s … longest-running monopoly. [We seek] to manage the diamond market, to control supply, to manage prices and to act collusively with our partners in the business.”

The hard-fought litigation spanned several years and countries. Despite the tremendous resources available to the U.S. Department of Justice and state attorney generals, it was only through the determination of plaintiffs’ counsel that De Beers was finally brought to justice and the rights of consumers were vindicated.

Lieff Cabraser served as Class Counsel for consumers who purchased diamonds from 1994 through March 31, 2006, in a class action lawsuit against the De Beers group of companies. Plaintiffs charged that De Beers conspired to monopolize the sale of rough diamonds. In May 2008, the District Court approved a $295 million settlement for purchasers of diamonds and diamond jewelry, including $130 million to consumers. The settlement also barred De Beers from continuing its illegal business practices and required De Beers to submit to the jurisdiction of the Court to enforce the settlement.

Lieff Cabraser antitrust attorneys played key roles in negotiating the settlement and defending it on appeal, including convincing the Third Circuit to review a panel’s decision striking down the settlements. The en banc panel reinstated the certification order, finding that the predominance standard was met by focusing on De Beers’ misconduct and the injury it caused each and every class member. The en banc panel’s decision provides a roadmap for certification of nationwide class action lawsuits involving antitrust and consumer claims.