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Bayer to pay more than $10 billion to settle Roundup and other lawsuits

The company says the agreement will resolve thousands of cases claiming damages from products made by Monsanto

by Melody M. Bomgardner
June 24, 2020 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 98, Issue 25


A photo of people spraying herbicide on weeds.
Credit: National Park Service
Glyphosate-containing herbicides are used widely to contain weeds, including in parks and other public lands.

Bayer says it will pay nearly $10 billion to settle over 125,000 lawsuits from plaintiffs alleging their use of the herbicide Roundup contributed to incidences of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

In addition, the company will pay hundreds of millions to settle suits brought by farmers claiming another herbicide, dicamba, damaged their crops as well as suits by local and state governments claiming damages from polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB)-contaminated water.

The company says the settlements will help it move past the legacy legal problems plaguing its 2018 acquisition of Monsanto, the original manufacturer of the three chemicals. The agreements do not contain any admission of wrongdoing. Bayer says scientists and regulators agree that Roundup, its brand name for glyphosate, does not pose a danger to human health.

The Roundup settlement will resolve about 75% of cases filed by current plaintiffs as well as potential future claims that have not yet been filed in court. It does not apply to three cases that have already gone to trial. In the first trial, a San Francisco jury awarded Dewayne Johnson, a 46-year old groundskeeper, $289 million in compensatory and punitive damages. Two following cases also went against Bayer. The company is appealing all three verdicts.

The Roundup settlement “resolves most current claims and puts in place a clear mechanism to manage risks of potential future litigation,” Bayer CEO Werner Baumann says in a statement. “It is financially reasonable when viewed against the significant financial risks of continued, multi-year litigation and the related impacts to our reputation and to our business.”

Bayer will also pay $400 million to settle farmer claims that drift from application of dicamba-based herbicides damaged their crops during the 2015-2020 seasons. BASF, which also markets dicamba herbicides, will contribute to the settlement. The two firms were held liable for drift damage in a trial that awarded Bader Farms, a Missouri peach orchard, $265 million. Earlier this month, the US Environmental Protection Agency canceled the registration of Bayer and BASF’s dicamba herbicides after a court order.

Lastly, Bayer has agreed to pay a total of $820 million to settle two groups of suits brought by local and state governments to recoup costs from cleaning up water systems contaminated with PCBs. Monsanto stopped producing the electrical insulating chemicals in 1977, but lawsuits related to PCBs have been filed as recently as last year.

Bayer says it will use cash, future earnings, and money from the sale of its animal health business to pay the settlements.


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