Bayer has reached verbal agreements to resolve a substantial portion of an estimated 125,000 US cancer lawsuits over use of its Roundup weedkiller, according to people familiar with the negotiations.
The deals, which have yet to be signed and cover an estimated 50,000 to 85,000 suits, are part of a $10bn (€9.2bn) Bayer plan to end a costly legal battle the company inherited when it acquired Monsanto in 2018, the sources said.
While some lawyers are still holding out, payouts for settled cases will range from a few million dollars to a few thousand each.
Bayer is likely to announce the settlements, which need approval from the supervisory board, in June. None of the deals are signed, though plaintiffs’ lawyers are expected to do so the day of the announcement.
The shares surged and closed 8% higher in Frankfurt trading.
Getting past the Roundup drama is a top priority for chief executive Officer Werner Baumann, who orchestrated the $63bn Monsanto takeover and has suffered the legal consequences ever since. The surge of Roundup claims, along with three big US court losses, hammered the company’s stock, wiping tens of billions of dollars from the market value and prompting shareholders to issue Mr Baumann an unprecedented rebuke last spring.
But since last summer, the CEO has kept the company out of more jury trials while engaging in high-stakes mediation talks. Last month, he won the annual confidence vote from 93% of shareholders amid signs that Bayer might soon reach a resolution.
Markus Mayer, an analyst at Baader Bank, said:
A settlement of all US lawsuits for $10 billion should be a major share price trigger for Bayer.
Once a resolution is in place, Mr Baumann will have to prove that his strategy of pairing pharmaceuticals, consumer health and agriculture makes sense. Some investors have doubts about the approach.
Bayer declined to comment on specifics about the talks.
While the exact number of settlements so far wasn’t immediately clear, the estimate of at least 125,000 claims is more than twice the amount of Roundup litigation cases Bayer has previously disclosed.
The company has only acknowledged filed and served cases of about 52,500 as of April.
Tens of thousands more are being held in abeyance by plaintiffs’ lawyers under agreements with Bayer, people familiar with the negotiations said.
Ken Feinberg, the chief Roundup mediator, said in January the total was 85,000 and would likely increase.
Bayer has said it will earmark $8bn to resolve all current cases, including those held in abeyance, according to some of the people familiar with the settlements.
Another $2bn will be set aside to cover future suits linking the weedkiller to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, people familiar with the talks said. Bloomberg