Monsanto Roundup lawsuits continue to mount in courts around the United States, with Bayer AG reporting that the total number of filings now exceeds 52,000.
Meanwhile, logistical and financial concerns related to the global coronavirus pandemic continue to slow negotiations aimed as settling the massive litigation.
According to Bayer’s newly released first quarter earnings report, the number of Monsanto Roundup lawsuits have risen to 52,500 from 48,600 in February. All of the plaintiffs involved in the litigation claim that exposure to glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup weed killers, contributed to the development of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma or one of its various subtypes.
Bayer has lost all three Monsanto Roundup lawsuits that have gone to trial so far, with juries awarding plaintiffs compensatory and punitive damages totaling $191 billion. The company is appealing each of those verdicts.
Kenneth Feinberg, the prominent attorney behind the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund and other high-profile legal settlements, was tapped to lead the Monsanto Roundup settlement negotiations last May. Earlier this year, reports indicated that the parties were close to a $10 billion agreement to resolve the vast majority of lawsuits. But it now appears those negotiations have stalled, partly due to the inability to meet in person during the pandemic.
“Covid-19 dynamics, including restrictions imposed in recent weeks, have caused meeting cancellations and delayed this process,” a Bayer spokesperson wrote. in an emailed statement to Bloomberg News.
“We cannot speculate about potential outcomes from the negotiations or timing, given the uncertainties surrounding the pandemic and the confidentiality of this process, but we remain committed to engaging” in good-faith talks, the statement continued.
Bayer had apparently planned to use some operating revenues to pay for the Monsanto Roundup settlement. But the company is now citing the economic uncertainty created by the coronavirus pandemic to justify renegotiating draft agreements that were yet to be finalized. According to Bloomberg, Bayer is trying to convince plaintiffs’ attorneys to take about 20% less than what was initially offered.
“Against the background of a looming recession and looking at, in part, considerable liquidity challenges, this applies now more than ever,” the company’s earnings report stated.
Bayer stock lost up to 47% of its value in the wake of the Monsanto Roundup verdicts. Angry shareholders have come to question the wisdom of the company’s $63 billion Monsanto acquisition, resulting in a rare vote of non-confidence for Bayer’s management team during last year’s shareholder meeting. Many see a settlement as key to lifting pressure on the company’s stock and they’ve been pushing for a quick resolution to the litigation.
Bayer did recently agree to pay $39.5 million to settle a false ad suit involving Monsanto Roundup. That accord also required the company to remove wording from the product’s label indicating glyphosate only affects an enzyme found in plants.