The global coronavirus pandemic is delaying negotiations aimed at settling thousands of Monsanto Roundup lawsuits that blame glyphosate for causing cancer.
According to The New York Time, Bayer AG’s CEO and Kenneth Feinberg – the prominent attorney tapped to led the Monsanto Roundup Settlement talks – both acknowledged the delay in recent weeks.
“This is about currently not being able to meet in person for talks. All this of course slows down the negotiations,” CEO Werner Baumann told a German newspaper on Thursday.
Bayer – which acquired Monsanto in June 2018 – is defending around 47,000 Roundup lawsuits in courts throughout the United States. Cases began to mount shortly after the World Health Organization declared glyphosate – the active ingredient in Monsanto Roundup weed killers — a “probable human carcinogen” based on an independent review that linked occupational exposure to an increased risk of cancer – particularly non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and its various subtypes.
Only three Monsanto Roundup lawsuits have gone to trial, but Bayer has so far failed to convince a single jury that glyphosate was not a substantial factor in plaintiffs’ cancer. Even after trial judges reduced the massive verdicts to comply with statutory limits on punitive damages, the combined awards totaled approximately $1.9 billion.
Bayer’s share price has declined about 47% since the Monsanto acquisition, largely due to the Roundup verdicts. Investors are understandably angry and delivered a rare rebuke to management during the company’s annual meeting last April. Facing further investor discontent – including a shareholder lawsuit that characterized the Monsanto acquisition as “disastrous” – Bayer recently agreed to submit to an audit of its processes for mergers and acquisitions.
While the company continues to deny that glyphosate causes cancer, its chairman has indicated an “economically” reasonable settlement was possible.
Kenneth Feinberg was appointed to lead the court-ordered mediation last May and has repeatedly expressed optimism that the talks would bear fruit. Feinberg has previously led successful negotiations that resulted in the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund, the BP Oil Spill Settlement, and the GM Faulty Ignition Switch Settlement.
Several Roundup trials that had been scheduled to get underway in January and February were also postponed to allow the parties to focus on the settlement discussions. Late last month, The Wall Street Journal even reported that Bayer was nearing a Monsanto Roundup settlement of roughly $10 billion.