The number of lawsuits alleging Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer causes cancer has swelled to 13,400 since the company was hit with two multimillion-dollar verdicts in the first two cases to go to trial, and its stock value plummeted. Yet, Bayer AG’s chief executive officer told shareholders at an annual meeting in Bonn, Germany, in April that while the news was grim, he stands by his decision last year to acquire the agribusiness giant for $63 billion, Law360 reported.
“We can’t promise you any full clarification on this in the short term,” Werner Baumann said. “But I can assure you that we are working relentlessly to successfully defend ourselves in the appeal proceedings and the coming trials and thus to reduce the uncertainty regarding the outcome of the liability litigation.”
Werner said that before Bayer acquired Monsanto, its management board assessed the risks of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, and determined that the liability risk was low. This was despite the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer in 2015 classifying the chemical as a probable carcinogen.
Bayer inked the acquisition of Monsanto last summer just weeks before the first trial alleging exposure to glyphosate in Roundup caused a California school groundskeeper to develop non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer of the lymph system. The jury found in favor of the man, awarding him $289 million. The award was later reduced to $78 million. The second trial – the first federal bellwether – resulted in an $80 million verdict for the plaintiff.
During the annual stockholders’ meeting, Bayer’s supervisory board voted to support the management board and approved the company’s strategy for moving forward.