You’ll have to forgive the executives at Bayer if they have something of a headache these days. While the German-based company is well-known for its brand of pain reliver to the general public, in agriculture, the crop protection/seed giant is primarily known for the No. 1 selling herbicide in the world, glyphosate – thanks to its 2018 acquisition of Monsanto. This combination made the company the largest such business entity in the world, with annual sales in the $22 billion range.
But along with acquiring brand glyphosate, Bayer also acquired a host of lawsuits across America related to it, with many of these claiming that long-term exposure to the herbicide led to the users developing some form of cancer. The first of these lawsuits was decided during the summer of 2018 in favor of the plaintiff. Bayer was found liable and ordered to pay several hundred million dollars in damages (which was ultimately reduced to $78 million by the judge). Now, a second trial against glyphosate in California has also found for the plaintiff, with damages of $80 million being awarded. Taken together, the two verdicts against glyphosate could end up costing Bayer almost $160 million if the expected appeals of these verdicts are denied.
This would be bad enough. But there are more than 11,000 more such lawsuits awaiting trial dates. If all of them ultimately make it to a jury and each is decided against glyphosate, Bayer could be on the hook for more than $200 billion in damage awards. At the very least, the company will end up spending millions of dollars in legal fees fighting these cases, which is exactly what it plans to do.
“Bayer stands behind these products and will vigorously defend them,” said the company in a released statement. “Roundup products and their active ingredient, glyphosate, have been used safely and successfully for over four decades worldwide.”
In the meantime, however, Bayer’s company stock price has plummeted since the second trial took place. In fact, as of the middle of March, Bayer stock had shed some $11 billion in value.
Again, the lawsuit headaches for Bayer will continue for a bit longer. The next glyphosate trial should be starting shortly, perhaps later this spring . . .