Recently, Bayer AG announced its plan to explore the possibility of resolving the over 13,400 lawsuits linked to Monsanto’s glyphosate-based weed killer Roundup. Bayer became liable for the lawsuits, which claim that long-term exposure to Roundup caused frequent users a type of cancer called non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, after acquiring Monsanto for $63 billion in 2018.
Bayer’s announcement, which came on June 26, said that it had hired an external lawyer to advise its supervisory board on the lawsuits. Additionally, Bayer set up a committee designed specifically to assist in resolving the pending Roundup litigation. Shareholders reacted overwhelmingly positive to the announcement, with Bayer shares rising 8.7 percent one day later – the biggest daily gain in a decade. Since March, Bayer stocks have lost more than a fifth of their value.
Bayer has been criticized by shareholders in the past, who say it has mishandled the Roundup fallout since acquiring Monsanto. One major shareholder, Janus Henderson, said that these measures are sensible and could pave the way for an earlier-than-anticipated settlement: this “represents [Bayer’s] best chance to change momentum in sentiment.” Another major shareholder, Deka Investment, acknowledged that taking on additional legal expertise is the right step for Bayer. Elliot Management, another large shareholder, agreed with the notion that this development may lead to settlements.
This announcement came at what some are considering a promising time for Bayer. Less than a week later, on July 2, U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria said that he would likely reduce the jury’s $80 million punitive damages award to Edwin Hardeman, the plaintiff in the first federal Roundup case. Hardeman was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma after using Roundup on his 56-acre property for 26 years.
Right now, the best financial scenario for Bayer is likely a settlement deal that is affordable, along with farmers continuing to be able to use Roundup products – but that is not a given. More importantly, though, a settlement could deliver a much quicker and more certain resolution for thousands of plaintiffs whose cases are currently pending. Hopefully, the justice system moves quickly so that impacted individuals and their families can receive the compensation they deserve.
A Pennsylvania native, Mike Daly has spent most of his life in the greater Philadelphia area. A proud graduate of Penn State and the Villanova School of Law, he's currently a partner at Pogust Millrood, where he represents individuals throughout the country in class action and mass tort claims involving consumer fraud, environmental harm, defective medical devices, and harmful pharmaceuticals.