Bayer to Pay $10.9 Billion to Settle Lawsuits against Its Weedkiller that Caused Cancer

Bayer AG, after more than a year of talks, has agreed to pay as much as $10.9 billion to settle close to 100,000 U.S. lawsuits claiming that its widely-used weedkiller Roundup caused cancer, resolving litigation that has pummeled the company’s share price.

German pharmaceutical company Bayer says it’s paying up to $10.9 billion to settle a lawsuit over subsidiary Monsanto’s weedkiller Roundup, which has faced numerous lawsuits over claims it causes cancer. In a statement Wednesday, Bayer said it was also paying up $1.22 billion to settle two further cases, one involving PCB in water.

The dispute has been ongoing since 2018, when the firm bought the US company Monsanto, which makes Roundup.

The settled cases over Roundup and other glyphosate-based weedkillers account for about 95% of those currently set for trial, it added.

“The Roundup settlement is the right action at the right time for Bayer to bring a long period of uncertainty to an end,” Bayer Chief Executive Werner Baumann said.

“Unfortunately, we have to pay an awful lot of money for a product which is perfectly regulated.”

“Bayer is not getting complete relief, but trying to do as much as it can to calm uncertainty,” said Adam Zimmerman, a law professor at Loyola Law School who has followed the litigation.

The deal dwarfs previous out-of-court product liability settlements, such as Merck & Co’s $5 billion deal to end litigation over its withdrawn painkiller Vioxx, and Bayer deals worth $2 billion to settle claims of harm caused by its Yasmin and Yaz birth control pills. Ken Feinberg, who was appointed settlement mediator by a federal judge more than a year ago, said that while nearly 25,000 claims remained unsettled there will be no more trials as cases settle in coming months.

“Bayer wisely decided to settle the litigation rather than roll the dice in American court,” said Feinberg, who has mediated other high-profile disputes, including over the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster and Volkswagen’s VWOG_p.DE diesel emissions scandal.

The Leverkusen-based company said the Roundup settlement would “bring closure to approximately 75%” of the current 125,000 filed and unfiled claims. It said the agreement is subject to approval by Judge Vince Chhabria of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

The surprising settlement announcement consists of a payment of $8.8 billion to $9.6 billion to resolve the current Roundup claims, Bayer said, and $1.25 billion to address potential future fallout. Bayer still denies any wrongdoing and said Roundup’s main ingredient glyphosate is safe. But plaintiffs said the glyphosate weedkiller caused their illness. Many suffered from the blood cancer non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Bayer stressed that the agreement would not cover three cases currently going through the appeals process. It included the first Roundup case brought by school groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson who was eventually awarded $78.5 million.

Bayer said it would also pay up to $400 million to settle cases involving the weedkiller dicamba having drifted onto plants that weren’t bred to resist it, killing them. A further payment of up to $820 million will be made to settle “most” claims for exposure to PCB, a highly carcinogenic substance, that Monsanto produced until 1977 and which has been found in U.S. waters.

Bayer said it would start making payments this year and these would be financed from existing liquidity, future income, proceeds from the sale of its animal health business and the issuance of additional bonds.

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