More than two years after completing its acquisition of Monsanto, Bayer AG has agreed to pay $39.5 million to settle a false advertising lawsuit involving its controversial Roundup weed killer.
The settlement, which was filed in federal court in Kansas City, Missouri, resolves allegations brought by several plaintiffs who claimed Monsanto failed to warn consumer’s about Roundup’s health risks. According to Bloomberg News, Bayer will also remove language from the Roundup label that states glyphosate – the herbicide’s active ingredient – only affects an enzyme found in plants.
The settlement must still be approved by the Court. The case is Jones v. Monsanto Co., 19-cv-102, U.S. District Court, Western District of Missouri (Kansas City).
Monsanto Roundup is the most popular weed killer in the world. But in 2015, glyphosate was declared a “probable human carcinogen” by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer, following an independent review that linked glyphosate exposure to an increased risk of cancer, especially non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and its various subtypes.
The false advertising settlement has no bearing on more 48,000 personal injury lawsuits pending in courts around the United States that blame glyphosate in Roundup for causing cancer. Trials in the Roundup cancer litigation began shortly after Bayer acquired Monsanto, and all three juries convened so far have ruled in favor of plaintiffs. But while Bayer was ordered pay combined damages totaling more than $2 billion, trial judges later reduced each of the verdicts to comply with statutory limits on punitive damages.
Bayer continues to maintain that glyphosate is safe and disputes any association with cancer.
Nevertheless, the company is participating in court-ordered settlement talks aimed at resolving Roundup cancer lawsuits. The negotiations are being led by Kenneth Feinberg, the prominent attorney who previously guided discussions that resulted in the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund and the GM faulty ignition switch settlement.
The Monsanto Roundup verdicts have been a drag on Bayer’s stock, which has lost more than 40% of its value since the first jury award was announced in August 2018. Shareholders dealt the company’s management a rare rebuke during Bayer’s annual investor meeting last April, and one has filed suit over the “disastrous” Monsanto acquisition.
Last year, Bayer’s CEO indicated the company would consider an “economically reasonable” Roundup settlement. Recent reports indicate the negotiations are progressing well, and speculation is growing that Bayer will resolve the cancer litigation for around $10 million.