A federal judge has agreed to suspend proceedings for an upcoming Monsanto Roundup trial, sparking even more speculation that the massive litigation involving the glyphosate-based herbicide is “significantly” closer to settlement.
Ken Feinberg, the prominent attorney leading Roundup settlement talks, requested the postponement. U.S. District Judge Vincent Chhabria of the Northern District of California subsequently issued an order suspending all deadlines in the federal multidistrict litigation for 28 days.
In January, Feinberg had indicated that as many as 85,000 Monsanto Roundup lawsuits alleging that glyphosate exposure caused various forms of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma were nearing settlement. Bloomberg News reported that Bayer AG, which acquired U.S.-based Monsanto in June of 2018, was considering a Roundup settlement in the neighborhood of $10 billion.
In a recent note to investors, Tom Claps of Susquehanna Financial Group LLP suggested the odds of a settlement had increased “significantly” and that the suspension of all activity in the federal litigation was a “clear indication that the parties are very close to a resolution”.
Glyphosate is the most popular weed killer in the world. But in March 2015, the World Health Organization declare the herbicide a probable human carcinogen after an independent review linked occupational exposure to an increased risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and its various subtypes.
Bayer has lost all three Monsanto Roundup lawsuits that have gone to trial, with juries awarding plaintiffs more than $2 billion in total damages. While trial judges later reduced each of the verdicts, the combined awards still exceeded $190 million.
Bayer is currently pursuing appeals in a bid to have the Roundup verdicts overturned.
At least a half-dozen Monsanto Roundup trials have been delayed since December, with Bayer acknowledging it agreed to the postponement in order to facilitate mediation efforts.
The Roundup litigation has been a drag on the company’s share price and caused investors to question the wisdom of the Monsanto acquisition. However, shares have rebounded somewhat in recent weeks, amid conjecture that at a Roundup settlement might be imminent.
According to Bloomberg News, many observers are speculating that a settlement announcement could come before Bayer releases its quarterly earnings on February 27th.