Bayer Settles Thousands More Roundup Suits

By Joel Rosenblatt | September 15, 2020

Bayer AG settled thousands more U.S. lawsuits over its Roundup weed killer after criticism that the company was failing to uphold an $11 billion deal it announced in June to resolve the massive litigation.

The agreements, revealed in a court filing late Monday, are with lawyers representing consumers who argue Roundup caused their cancer. The settlements mark a significant step forward after the lawyers said two weeks ago that Bayer was backing out of their agreements. The judge handling all the cases filed in U.S. federal court expressed surprise in an Aug. 28 hearing at how little progress the company had made.

The latest settlements resolve about 15,000 U.S. lawsuits, according to lawyers familiar with the deals. Added to the approximately 32,000 settlements previously disclosed by Ken Feinberg, the mediator overseeing the process, Bayer has resolved at least 47,000 of the suits. The company has said it faces about 125,000 filed and unfiled Roundup claims. The value of the settlements wasn’t disclosed.

At the hearing last month, U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria said he had paused the federal Roundup litigation based on Bayer’s representation that it had been settled. After learning details falling short of his expectations, the judge threatened to lift the pause, allowing the cases to go to trial. It remains to be seen whether the settlements revealed Monday will satisfy him.

Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg
CEO Contract

Bayer last week extended the contract of Chief Executive Officer Werner Baumann, in a sign of continuity as the German company works its way through the thicket of lawsuits. The company said at the time it was making progress with plaintiff attorneys.

Spokesman Christian Hartel, reached by phone, referred to a company statement from last week in which it said Bayer will “proceed on an accelerated basis” to finalize the preliminary deals to resolve existing suits that were announced in June.

Bayer has now settled with all the lawyers who took Roundup cases to trial and won big verdicts that deeply exacerbated the problem for the company. The legal threat has weighed on Bayer since its 2018 acquisition of Monsanto, maker of the herbicide, with the shares losing more than a third of their value.

The company’s stock rose as much as 1% early Tuesday in Frankfurt.

“We’re the ones who know where all the bodies are buried,” said Brent Wisner, one of the three lawyers whose settlements were disclosed Monday. The lawyers who took the cases to trial “sifted through millions of documents” to build the suits, he said. “The people who are left unsettled, if they want to pursue this litigation, they’re going to have to do what took us four years.”

‘Step Forward’

The agreements are “a huge step forward for Bayer and Monsanto finding a way through the nightmare that has been Roundup for them,” Wisner said.

The other lawyers Bayer settled with are Jennifer Moore and Aimee Wagstaff, who won the only Roundup case so far to go to trial before Chhabria in San Francisco. All three lawyers declined to discuss the terms of their deals. A fourth lawyer who took a Roundup case to trial, Mike Miller, previously indicated his lawsuits were settled.

“On behalf of my clients across the country, I am pleased that we were finally able to reach a settlement with Monsanto and bring resolution and justice for my clients,” Moore said.

The case is In re Roundup Products Liability Litigation, 16-md-02741, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California (San Francisco).

–With assistance from Tim Loh.

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