How the COVID pandemic may have helped Bayer settle crippling glyphosate-cancer litigation

roundup monsanto bayer merger

[Editor’s note: Biotech giant Bayer recently settled roughly 95,000 lawsuits alleging it Roundup herbicide causes cancer. The $10.9 billion settlement may have been facilitated by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.]

The settlement came about even though Bayer adamantly insists that glyphosate, the core chemical in Roundup, is not a cancer agent, a position also taken by the Environmental Protection Agency and other regulators around the world.

It also came about after the plaintiffs won the first three cases that went to trial, including one last year in which a jury awarded $2 billion to a California couple. The plaintiffs’ lawyers had hoped to leverage those victories to extract $20 billion or even $30 billion from Bayer to settle the litigation.

And the settlement came about even though we’re in the middle of a pandemic. Or perhaps it’s more accurate to say that it came about because we’re in the middle of a pandemic. “There were no juries and no trials,” said Ken Feinberg, who, as the court-appointed special master, was assigned the task of trying to resolve the litigation. You see, without trials, there wasn’t much else either side could do besides settle.

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By May 2019 …. after those first three juries had sided with the plaintiffs — Bayer’s stock had dropped 44% …. By late March this year, Bayer’s market cap was less than the $63 billion it had paid for Monsanto. Which is right around the time the pandemic shut down much of the U.S., including its court system.

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