Bayer offers $10bn to settle Roundup claims

Containers of Roundup on a shelf

Bayer will pay billions of dollars to settle lawsuits filed over its weedkiller Roundup

Any future settlements are subject to approval by Judge Vince Chhabria of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, the company said.

A jury in 2018 ruled for Dewayne Johnson, who also said Roundup caused him to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

At the time, Monsanto maintained that glyphosate - the active weed-killing ingredient in Roundup - had a history of safe use, a stance that Bayer has since echoed.

In addition to claims over the Roundup product, the agreement will also settle many cases filed over dicamba.

Monsanto, of which Bayer is the parent company, lost a lawsuit in 2018 by a school groundskeeper who claimed its weedkiller had caused his non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

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Leverkusen, Germany-based Bayer's American depositary receipts climbed on the settlement news, gaining as much as as 5%.

In the Roundup settlements, Bayer executives said the deal shouldn't affect its credit rating or dividend policy and that paying down its large debt load from the Monsanto transaction remains a "high priority". Claimants will be required to provide proof of damage to crop yields and evidence that it was due to dicamba, Bayer said. The company will pay up to a total of US$400 million to resolve the multi-district litigation pending in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri and claims for the 2015-2020 crop years.

Bayer has repeatedly said Roundup is safe and important to farmers who use the herbicide in combination with the company's genetically modified seeds.

That portion of the deal does not include a decision from earlier this year when a jury ordered Bayer and its codefendant, BASF, to pay a Missouri peach farmer more than $250 million. The Environmental Working Group, a science nonprofit, found that consumer oat-based food products frequently contained levels of glyphosate that exceed the 160 parts per billion health benchmark.

Lawyers representing some of the Roundup users who declined to settle their claims vowed Wednesday to continue bringing cases to trial.

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It comes after a United States jury in February awarded $265 million to Missouri peach farmer Bill Bader who accused the two companies of encouraging farmers to use the weedkiller irresponsibly.

The settlement, which equates to NZ$16b, will cover 125,000 filed and unfiled claims, Bayer said on Thursday. "This litigation is far from over". Bayer said previous year that all government regulators that have looked at the issue have rejected a link between cancer and glyphosate. Some, including Elliott Management Corp., urged the company to seek a comprehensive settlement. In April, he won the annual confidence vote from 93% of shareholders amid signs that Bayer might soon reach a resolution.

Ellmanns said sales of Bayer's glyphosate weed sprays in Australia were performing strongly.

Bayer said in February it did not need to write down Monsanto's value in its books if it has to spend $10 billion on a settlement, reflecting the average analyst estimate at the time.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said in January that a regulatory review of glyphosate, the main ingredient in Roundup, is not a carcinogen.

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