Roundup Lawsuit Costs Continue To Pile Up, With $16 Billion Set Aside to Resolve Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma Claims

Bayer's stock value has plummeted 70% since it purchased Monsanto, and CEO now indicates Roundup lawsuits pose serious threat to future of company

With thousands of Roundup lawsuits continuing to be pursued by former users of the weedkiller diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, even after the manufacturer has paid over $10 billion to settle some claims, Bayer executives indicate that they have to set aside billions more to address the litigation, and the company is now considering a controversial bankruptcy maneuver to force settlement of additional claims through the U.S. Bankruptcy Court system.

Bayer and its Monsanto subsidiary have faced more than 167,000 lawsuits throughout the U.S. over the last decade, each raising similar allegations that users were not adequately warned about the risk of developing non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma from Roundup, either when using the product in an agricultural setting or around at home.

The litigation emerged in 2015, when the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) decided to classify glyphosate in Roundup as a probable cancer-causing agent. However, even after paying more than $10 billion in Roundup settlements in recent years, Bayer and Monsanto have continued to face a steady stream of jury trials involving plaintiffs who rejected settlement offers, as well as new claims that continue to be filed as former users develop non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

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At a speech to the Executives Club of Chicago last week, Bayer Chief Executive Officer Bill Anderson told the audience that Bayer has set aside $16 billion to resolve the remaining litigation, including the $10 billion already paid out, according to a report by Bloomberg News.

Anderson claimed the ongoing Roundup lawsuits poses an “existential” threat to the global agriculture and healthcare company, impeding it’s ability to innovate for farmers. However, critics point out that the company could have avoided the litigation, and serious financial harm, if it had provided adequate safety warnings on Roundup labels, including the risks of exposure and how users could protect themselves. Instead, the lawsuits claim Monsanto, later purchased by Bayer, placed profits ahead of consumer safety.

Bayer’s stock value has dropped 70% since it purchased Monsanto in 2016, and inherited liability for the Roundup cancer claims, raising questions about the company’s future.

Currently, hundreds of such claims are centralized in the federal court system before U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria in the Northern District of California, where several large waves of claims are being prepared for remand to different federal district court for trial. Even more are filed in state courts nationwide, including Missouri, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and California, where a series of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma lawsuits are already scheduled to go before juries in the coming months.

However, Bayer has failed to establish that it can consistently defend the safety of the herbicide at trial, suffering a string of massive losses in state court trials over the past year, including the largest Roundup lawsuit verdict to date, $2.2 billion, handed down by a Pennsylvania state court jury in January. That verdict was preceded by a $1.5 billion verdict in November 2023, and a slew of others plaintiff victories last year.

Potential Bayer Bankruptcy Strategy

In recent months, Bayer officials have indicated they are considering a controversial bankruptcy strategy, known as the Texas Two-Step, where it would shift liability to a subsidiary, and then have that subsidiary declare bankruptcy.

The technique has come to public attention in recent years, due to failed attempts to use the stratagem to resolve Johnson & Johnson talcum powder cancer lawsuits, and 3M Combat Arms earplug litigation. It is currently unclear when or if Bayer will actually make the attempt, given its recent failures for other companies facing product liability litigation.

According to the report, Anderson still believes the lawsuits are without merit, despite numerous juries finding that the company knew or should have known about the Roundup cancer risks, yet withheld information from consumers.

The main strategy the company has employed to reduce the flow of future Roundup lawsuits has been to announce that it will remove the active ingredient glyphosate from consumer products, while keeping the formulation for large agricultural users.

Unless the manufacturer is able to successfully force settlement of Roundup claims through the U.S. bankruptcy system, or increases the amount it is currently offering to settle remaining lawsuits, it is expected that Bayer will face years of trials in courts nationwide in the coming years.

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