It looks like Bayer got its bargain. In a move that has shocked most in the press by its size and scope, the company that acquired Monsanto for $63 billion will set aside a bit more than $10 billion to settle current and future claims that Monsanto’s flagship weed killer Roundup causes cancer.
When word of settlement negotiations first leaked, conversations seemed to hover around a number in the neighborhood of $8-10 billion. Bloomberg News reported that such a settlement would be viewed by Wall Street as a bargain for the corporation and predicted that shares “would probably surge if Bayer can close the Roundup headache for as little as $10 billion.”
That “headache” has cost lives and cut short thousands more. Evidence brought to light throughout the litigation over Roundup and its key ingredient glyphosate paint the portrait of a corporation that was willing to do anything to control the public and private discourse over one of its cornerstone products.
Ever since a judge’s decision in Dewayne “Lee” Johnson’s lawsuit tore down some of the walls Monsanto used to keep its inner workings secret, we’ve learned of the corporation’s efforts to shape and influence the policies and conversations that kept Roundup on store shelves around the world – even while Monsanto privately questioned the safety of its own product. “The internal correspondence noted by Johnson could support a jury finding that Monsanto has long been aware of the risk that its glyphosate-based herbicides are carcinogenic…but has continuously sought to influence the scientific literature to prevent its internal concerns from reaching the public sphere and to bolster its defenses in products liability actions,” wrote the judge in the summer of 2018. “Thus there are triable issues of material fact.”
The 95,000 claimants participating in the Bayer settlement can expect payments of $5,000 to $250,000 depending on the facts and merits of their cases. Some 30,000 plaintiffs opted not to join the settlement action and will, for now, continue with their own litigation against Bayer.