Market NewsCommentA Comic Opera

A Comic Opera

By Charles Wyndham.

To hear or read about De Beers LV Trademark Ltd v De Beers Diamond Syndicate Inc even if spiced up by Angela Tese-Milner, Trustee v De Beers Centenary AG et al, would not, for most, be the most enthralling bit of light entertainment.

Not for me anyway, well, that was until I got sucked into this imbroglio.

The plot is rather akin to some of the better opera plots, totally incomprehensible and well nigh impossible in any practical sense of the word, which is why I never bother with them when I go and listen, instead my hope is that the lead soprano is nearer nine stone than fifteen.

In a couple of sentences the plot in the above cases were firstly De Beers defending its trade mark and the second case is the WB David case; where the first case is being used in the second case to argue that De Beers does business in America.

My chorus part came about when I agreed to give an affidavit for the plaintiff in the second case that 17 Charterhouse Street was de facto the or one of the key centres of operation for De Beers.

Not I thought a particularly controversial point, in fact I was surprised that it was not De Beers who had asked me for this confirmation as they may have forgotten.

In the course of doing this affidavit Jared Stamell acting for the plaintiff sent me documents from the first case which the court had unsealed, i.e. allowed to be put into the public domain.

This ‘door stop’ of documentation was thoughtfully sent to me on New Years Eve. After one very brief glance at the turgid stuff I decided that this would make excellent bed time reading during the next power cut whenever that may be, and put it aside.

Then the fun and games started.

Just prior, I believe the day before, Jared Stamell went to court for his case the De Beers lawyers, that is a full football team rushed around and persuaded a judge that some of the documents that had been released should not have been.

To cut a long story short, the various judges agreed and I was asked to confirm to the court that I had destroyed the documents.

Pressing the delete button was a relief, if not a pleasure, wiping my conscience clear of having to wade through the pages of bilge.

This pleasure was enhanced when reading that the De Beers lawyers, or more specifically, no less than a Mr Sunshine, actually took the trouble to single me out accusing me of writing inflammatory articles, having left the company “under rather unfavourable terms.”

Well that is not my recollection after 13 years, but if it makes them feel better I am sure they need it more than I do and at least I have the pleasure of being likened to a can of lighter fuel.

What of course is now fascinating is why should De Beers lawyers have gone to so much trouble to have various documents resealed by the court?

In the new world of transparency so loudly proclaimed by De Beers, where its own customers are stripped bare of any virginal inhibitions so that the DTC can fully examine their inner workings, what ghastly information can be in those documents?

Also, why the timing of the request to the court at such a late stage?

As in opera, conjecture so often provides a greater source for entertainment than the reality brought about when the singers make up and accoutrements are washed away.

Jared, who makes a rather successful practice out of suing De Beers, tells me that in the WB David case De Beers, the defendants, have surprisingly spent $34 million on lawyers fees so far in defending class action suits in the US.

This compares with the more modest $20 million spent by the plaintiff, normal experience is that the plaintiffs actually spend considerably more than defendants, in anything but the topsy turvy world of diamonds, that is.

I merely tell Jared that he is jealous.

This paranoia by De Beers sits uncomfortably with the company’s reaction to the settlement in its class action and other bibs and bobs amounting to $295 million.

Then this was said to herald a new era where De Beers would be free to trade under its own name in America which even today represents 45% of the diamond jewellery market.

Nothing of course has happened and indeed the absence of De Beers and more tellingly of its senior management in moving freely to and from America is painfully noticeable.


Could the secret lie in those resealed documents?

I must say that I am rather looking forward to the next act in this comic opera.

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