Many Bayer AG investors didn’t realize just how much litigation risk they were getting when the German company spent $66 billion in June to acquire Monsanto Co., the giant U.S. seed and herbicide maker. A San Francisco jury’s August 2018 award of $289 million to a groundskeeper who blamed Monsanto’s blockbuster weedkiller, Roundup, for his cancer sent shares down the most since 2001.
While Bayer won a ruling to cut the award to $78.6 million, more than 8,500 additional plaintiffs are making similar claims. And with a flood of pending lawsuits over waterways contaminated with PCBs and fresh cases emerging over another Monsanto herbicide, dicamba, investors are left to ponder the final cost of Bayer’s increased legal exposure.
Why was the San Francisco case so alarming to investors?
…[T]he Aug. 10 verdict in the groundskeeper’s case put a spotlight on the potential risk of litigation sparked by Roundup and other potentially harmful chemicals. Jonas Oxgaard, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co., has estimated Bayer may face $5 billion in legal costs and plaintiff payouts as a result of its Monsanto acquisition, which would rank among the biggest ever by a company facing damage claims made by private individuals….
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