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Bayer confirms progress toward settlement of US glyphosate litigation

May 26, 2020
Chemical Value Chain

Bayer shares jumped 8.8% in Frankfurt on Monday on reports that the company is nearing an agreed settlement of US litigation claiming that its glyphosate-based herbicide Roundup causes cancer.

The move added €4.91 billion ($5.35 billion) to the company’s market valuation. Bayer confirmed it had made progress toward a deal after Bloomberg reported that verbal agreements had been made on a $10-billion package covering between 50,000 and 85,000 actual and potential lawsuits, which would include $2 billion for any future cases that are brought after the settlement.

Bloomberg reported that people familiar with the negotiations say the deals have not yet been signed but Bayer is likely to announce the settlements in June. Bloomberg also reported that the overall number of US cancer lawsuits stood at 125,000, including tens of thousands being held in abeyance by plaintiffs’ lawyers under agreements with the company. The deals would limit eligibility for compensation to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma cases and those in which plaintiffs have died of that cancer over the last decade, according to Bloomberg. Roundup users who blame the product for causing their multiple-myeloma cancers would get nothing.

A Bayer spokesman says, “We’ve made progress in the Roundup mediation discussions under the auspices of [US court-appointed mediator] Ken Feinberg but in keeping with the confidentiality of this process, the company will not speculate about settlement outcomes or timing. As we have said previously, the company will consider a resolution if it is financially reasonable and provides a process to resolve potential future litigation.” Feinberg said last week that he remained “cautiously optimistic” a national settlement will be reached, adding that the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) had “slowed momentum.”

The Bayer spokesman adds, “We previously disclosed that as of 14 April there were 52,500 plaintiffs with served cases in the Roundup litigation in the US. We expect these numbers will rise given the heavy plaintiff advertising—$100 million in plaintiff TV advertising in 2019 alone—combined with speculation about a settlement, factors that have driven up plaintiff numbers in the past.”

“The number speculated by anonymous sources in the Bloomberg article includes a substantial number of potential plaintiffs with unfiled or unserved cases. The company does not report potential plaintiffs in its quarterly disclosures. For several reasons, many claims gathered by lawyers will not be compensable in a settlement program.”

The Los Angeles Times, citing anonymous sources, say that, although some lawyers are still holding out, settlement payments will range from a few thousand dollars for each claimant to a few million. Bayer has suggested various payout schedules, though none will exceed three years, the sources said. The sources added that Bayer had threatened to put Monsanto into bankruptcy to lower claimants’ payment expectations. This was the strategy followed by Purdue Pharma, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection to deal with a wave a lawsuits over its opioid painkiller OxyContin.

Bayer said in February that the average of analysts’ predictions of the cost of a settlement was about $10 billion and that Bayer would not have to write down the value of the Monsanto acquisition in the case of such a deal. Bayer inherited the Roundup issue following its $63-billion takeover of Monsanto in June 2018.

By: Natasha Alperowicz

Source: Chemical Week

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