Bayer mediator dismisses report of $8 billion Roundup settlement

Bayer AG has not offered to pay billions of dollars to settle claims in the United States related to the Roundup herbicide, mediator Ken Feinberg said, dismissing a report to that effect which drove its shares as much as 11% higher.

“Bayer has not proposed paying $8 billion to settle all the U.S. Roundup cancer claims. Such a statement is pure fiction,” Feinberg said in an email on Friday. “Compensation has not even been discussed in the global mediation discussions.”

Bayer shares, which had shed some of their gains before Feinberg’s statement, retreated further and closed up 1.7% at 64.63 euros.

Bayer, which acquired Roundup and other glyphosate-based weedkillers as part of its $63 billion takeover of Monsanto last year, declined comment on the initial Bloomberg news report and on Feinberg’s response.

Bayer Chief Executive Werner Baumann last week said the company would consider settling with U.S. plaintiffs only on reasonable terms, and if it “achieves finality of the overall litigation”.

He added at the time the group was “constructively engaging” in a court-ordered process with mediator Feinberg on the cases heard in federal court. Most of the pending cases, however, have been filed with U.S. state courts.

Feinberg added that any efforts by Bayer toward a comprehensive settlement were tied in with the mediation proceedings overseen by him. “These are all part of the same mediation process.”

Bayer shares have lost more than a third of their value, or roughly 30 billion euros ($34 billion), since last August when a California jury in the first such lawsuit found Monsanto should have warned of the alleged cancer risks from Roundup.

HIGH EXPECTATIONS

The German drugs and pesticides company has engaged in negotiations with plaintiffs’ lawyers, two sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.

“The problem is, how do you get the plaintiffs to climb down from their very high expectations? None of the jury verdicts so far have been favorable for Bayer,” one of the sources said, adding that talks were focused on basic questions such as how to handle potential future claims.

Bayer said on Friday that the next U.S. glyphosate lawsuit initially scheduled to be heard in St. Louis, Missouri, this month would be postponed to Jan. 27, 2020, and that a following St. Louis case slated for September had also been postponed.

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