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WASZYNGTON / Frankfurt (Reuters) – Bayer experiences setback in glyphosate dispute: agro-pharmaceutical company’s prospects for an appeal in a multi-billion-dollar lawsuit over alleged cancer risk of Roundup herbicide glyphosate in the U.S. Supreme Court are dwindling.
Headwind is named after the US administration of President Joe Biden. Attorney General Elizabeth Prelogar, representing the government before the Supreme Court, advised the court against accepting Bayer’s appeal. The Leverkusen-based company still hopes that the case will be accepted, but the court is generally following the Attorney General’s recommendations.
Investors fled even though Bayer made reserves a year ago for a possible defeat before the Supreme Court with reserves worth billions. Bayer shares fell more than ten percent on Wednesday and were by far Dax’s biggest loser.
Uncertainty has increased significantly, according to portfolio manager Markus Manns of the Union Investment fund, which is one of Bayer’s 20 largest shareholders. Manns assumes that new cases will pile up in the next few years and that “investors will again face negative news such as lawsuits, lost lawsuits and compensation payments,” he explained. “Despite commercial logic, the Monsanto purchase was a mistake. Bayer completely underestimated the risk. In his opinion, Bayer could have used the money from the reserve to buy pharmaceuticals.
With the multi-billion dollar acquisition of glyphosate and developer Roundup Monsanto, Bayer has brought home a spate of lawsuits over the herbicide’s purported carcinogenicity that has plagued the company for years. In one such case – the Californian Edwin Hardeman, who attributed his cancer to using Roundup and received $ 25 million in damages – Bayer went all the way to the Supreme Court. The company said it “remains convinced that there is a good legal reason for the Supreme Court to investigate Hardeman’s case and rectify the verdict.”
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has repeatedly stated that glyphosate herbicides are safe to use and not carcinogenic. “Accordingly, a cancer warning on these products would be false and misleading and is ruled out by applicable federal law,” Bayer said. But US Attorney General Prelogar sees it differently: Approval of the herbicide by the US Environmental Protection Agency without warning of certain chronic dangers “does not in itself exempt from issuing such warnings,” it said in a statement released on Tuesday. .
The decision is now in the hands of the Supreme Court, and the fact that in December the Supreme Court asked the US government to assess whether it should accept the case initially indicated that judges were interested in the hearing. Bayer now plans to file another statement in court.
BAYER IS ALREADY PREPARED TO BE DEAD
Bayer has already accumulated an additional $ 4.5 billion in reserves in the event that a court does not accept the case or pass a ruling in favor of plaintiffs. In addition, a comprehensive litigation plan has been put in place to deal with new plaintiffs’ claims over the next 15 years. CEO Werner Baumann saw good reasons for the court to rule in Bayer’s favor, as the EPA itself had banned warnings about possible cancer risks. Baumann believes that a Supreme Court ruling in favor of Bayer will effectively end potential future litigation. But the chances of that are slim now.
To date, Bayer has lost three lawsuits in which millions of people have been compensated and failed in all previous appeals. Among them is the Hardeman case. In 2021, Bayer also won two glyphosate cases before juries for the first time, which did not recognize the herbicide as a cause of plaintiffs’ cancer. Bayer has always denied the allegations against glyphosate. Authorities around the world have classified the drug as non-cancerous. Only the cancer research agency IARC rated the active substance as “possibly carcinogenic” in 2015. The claimants referred to this assessment.
To stave off the wave of lawsuits, Bayer announced a $ 1 billion-to-$ 11.6 billion settlement plan in summer 2020. Recently, settlements were still pending for approximately 31,000 of the 138,000 pending lawsuits that were brought.
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