June 24, 2020
By Jef Feeley and Tim Loh
Bayer AG has agreed to settle almost 100,000 U.S. lawsuits claiming the company’s Roundup weedkiller caused cancer, according to a statement from Weitz & Luxenberg, a New York law firm that was representing some of the plaintiffs.
The German chemical company has been seeking to resolve litigation it inherited with the 2018 acquisition of Monsanto Co.
Chris Loder, a U.S.-based spokesman for Bayer, didn’t immediately return a call or an email seeking comment on the law firm’s press release.
“It has been a long journey, but we are very pleased that we’ve achieved justice for the tens of thousands of people who, through no fault of their own, are suffering from Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma after using a product Monsanto assured them was safe,” Robin Greenwald, Practice Group Chair, Environmental Pollution and Consumer Protection at Weitz & Luxenberg, said in the emailed statement.
Since the $63 billion acquisition of Monsanto, a surge in Roundup claims -- and big U.S. court losses -- wiped tens of billions of dollars off Bayer’s market value. Getting past the legal drama is a top priority for Chief Executive Officer Werner Baumann. It’s also complicated Baumann’s strategy of keeping Bayer’s agriculture, pharmaceuticals and consumer-health businesses under one roof, with some investors questioning whether that corporate model makes sense.
In their lawsuits, users blame Roundup and its active ingredient -- the chemical glyphosate -- for their non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and other cancers. The company denies glyphosate is a carcinogen, a position backed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Bayer faced a surge in new lawsuits last year after it lost three big jury trials, and investors issued a rare rebuke to Baumann last spring. Some, including Elliott Management Corp., urged the company to seek a comprehensive settlement. Bayer is appealing the verdicts it lost.
Since last summer, Baumann has kept Bayer out of more trials while engaging in high-stakes mediation talks. In April, he won the annual confidence vote from 93% of shareholders amid signs that Bayer might soon reach a resolution.
The consolidated federal case is In RE: Roundup Products Liability Litigation, MDL 2741, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).
To contact the reporters on this story:
Jef Feeley in Wilmington, Delaware at [email protected];
Tim Loh in Munich at [email protected]
To contact the editors responsible for this story:
David Glovin at [email protected]
© 2020 Bloomberg L.P.
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