(Bloomberg) — Bayer AG has agreed to settle almost 100,000 U.S. lawsuits claiming the company’s Roundup weedkiller caused cancer, according to a statement June 24 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.
Bayer CEO Werner Baumann said the settlement covers most current claims.
“First and foremost, the Roundup settlement is the right action at the right time for Bayer to bring a long period of uncertainty to an end,” he said in a news release on the company’s web site. “It resolves most current claims and puts in place a clear mechanism to manage risks of potential future litigation. It is financially reasonable when viewed against the significant financial risks of continued, multi-year litigation and the related impacts to our reputation and to our business.
“The decision to resolve the Roundup litigation enables us to focus fully on the critical supply of healthcare and food. It will also return the conversation about the safety and utility of glyphosate-based herbicides to the scientific and regulatory arena and to the full body of science.”
“The Roundup agreements are designed as a constructive and reasonable resolution to a unique litigation,” added Kenneth R. Feinberg, court-appointed mediator for the settlement talks.
“The separate, independent settlements of the current claims are unique and a tribute to Bayer. The significant progress made to date – which exceeds the initial participation rates of other claims resolution proceedings – provides a robust framework that will enable the parties to bring closure to the current Roundup litigation in due course.”
Plantiffs in the lawsuit were pleased with the decision.
“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.