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Does Bayer Regret Buying Monsanto?

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Bayer is getting hit worldwide with Monsanto’s Roundup Cancer lawsuits and is hemorrhaging litigation costs- what was it thinking?

St Louis, MOAbout 18,400 Monsanto glyphosate lawsuits alleging Roundup cancer are bound to put a large dent into the $63 billion that Bayer bought St. Louis-based Monsanto for last year. While Bayer knew it inherited the Roundup lawsuits, one plaintiff attorney believes the German pharmaceutical company wasn’t anticipating the high cost of losing.

Attorney R. Brent Wisner’s client, a 46-year-old former school district groundskeeper from California, was awarded $289 million but damages were later to reduced to $78 million. Regardless, the judgment caused rather a stir in the market, wiping $10 billion of Bayer’s market value in just one day. Dewayne “Lee” Johnson’s case also opened the floodgates to thousands and thousands more Monsanto glyphosate lawsuits

After finding himself alone in the San Francisco courtroom with two of Bayer’s lawyers, Wisner recounts the following conversation, as reported by Bloomberg:

“What are you doing? Why are you trying this case?” [Wisner asked Bayer’s lawyers]. To clarify the question, he added, “We’re going to win, and it’s going to make it much harder for you to settle cases in the future.”

Bayer’s lawyers were unfazed. “They said, ‘Oh, Brent, you know, there’s winning, and then there’s winning. And if you think you’re going to win a couple million dollars, and you think that’s a big win, that’s fine—but we don’t think you have a chance at getting a very big verdict here,’?” Wisner recalls. Shocked, he told them, “I don’t know what you’re telling your client, but I’m going to be asking for a stupid amount of money.” (The lawyers for Bayer say they have no recollection of the conversation.)

Bayer lost two more Roundup trials in the Bay Area within the next nine months.

The $2 Billion Plus Roundup Lawsuits


Although verdicts have been reduced, they likely amount to more than a chunk of change for Bayer. An Oakland jury in May awarded a husband and wife more than $2 billion who claimed their use of Roundup caused their non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, but in July a judge reduced that amount to a pittance - $86.7 million. A lawyer for the couple said the order was a victory, though “we believe the reduction in damages does not fairly capture the pain and suffering experienced by Alva and Alberta.”

In a case with similar allegations, a federal judge in San Francisco in March reduced an $80 million verdict to $25.3 million: he supported the $5.3 million in compensatory damages awarded to a man with non-Hodgkins lymphoma (now in remission) but reduced the punitive charges from $75 million to $20 million, Reuters said. Edwin Hardeman claimed he used Roundup since the 1980s.

The German pharmaceutical giant stated in an email to Fortune.com that an “increase in advertising by U.S. attorneys seeking new clients” will likely add to the litigation. Since losing the above three U.S. trials, the Roundup debacle has cost Bayer more than $30 billion in market value, suffered an unprecedented shareholder vote of no confidence and faced speculation about a breakup, according to Fortune (October 16, 2019). And analysts speculate that settling more than 14,000 lawsuits over whether the popular herbicide causes cancer could cost anywhere from about $2.5 billion to $20 billion. After buying one of America’s most hated companies (ranked by the Harris Poll) who isn’t wondering: What was Bayer thinking?

Attorney Wisner, aged 36, told Bloomberg Businessweek about his the social benefits that come with going up against Bayer:

“The first thing I do when I meet a stranger is, I tell him that I’m a lawyer, that I sue Monsanto, because people immediately go, ‘Good man, let me buy you a drink.’… “Everywhere I go, it’s amazing, everyone f---ing hates these guys. It’s great.”

READ ABOUT ROUNDUP CANCER LAWSUITS

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