Bayer pays $10bn to settle weedkiller cancer cases

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Bayer, the world's largest seed and pesticide maker, has agreed to pay $10.9 billion to settle tens of thousands of claims in the U.S. that its popular weedkiller Roundup causes cancer, the company said on Wednesday.

For the future class agreement, the company said, an independent Class Science Panel composed of expert scientists will take several years to determine whether Roundup has the potential to cause non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and, if so, at what minimum exposure levels. Bayer, a German company, inherited the legal morass when it bought Roundup's manufacturer, Monsanto, for $63 billion in June 2018.

"First and foremost, the Roundup settlement is the right action at the right time for Bayer to bring a long period of uncertainty to an end", said Werner Baumann, Chief Executive Officer of Bayer.

The resolution requires any plaintiffs, including those who have retained counsel but haven't filed claims in court, to dismiss their cases or agree not to file if they want to be paid.

"It has been a long journey, but we are very pleased that we've achieved justice for the tens of thousands of people who, through no fault of their own, are suffering from Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma after using a product Monsanto assured them was safe", Robin Greenwald, practice group chair for environmental pollution and consumer protection, said in an emailed statement to Bloomberg.

The overall sum includes $US1.25b ($1.82b) to settle potential future litigation, which the company has proposed would be covered by a class agreement.

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

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Monsanto launched Roundup in 1974 and Bayer will continue to sell the weedkiller without a cancer warning label, a spokesman said. The company said it expects a contribution from its co-defendant, BASF, towards this settlement.

Bayer officials also agreed to pay $400 million to resolve claims that its dicamba herbicide drifted onto the fields of neighboring farmers and damaged their crops.

Under the terms of the Roundup settlement, Bayer will set up a $1.25 billion fund to cover future cancer claims. Since then, thousands of US lawsuits have been filed against the company. "At the same time, the extensive body of science indicates that Roundup does not cause cancer, and therefore, is not responsible for the illnesses alleged in this litigation".

The accord allows Bayer to continue selling Roundup in the US for use in backyards and farms without any safety warning, and plaintiffs' attorneys who settled their case inventories agreed to stop taking new Roundup clients.

Bayer suffered a clutch of financially painful setbacks in first-instance United States court rulings past year, although the amounts awarded were later reduced. Three California juries in a row ruled against the company and ordered it to pay damages to former Roundup users.

Bayer said it would make the first cash payments related to the mass settlements starting this year.

It said the agreement is subject to approval by Judge Vince Chhabria of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

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