Bayer Shares Plummet Upon Verdict That Roundup Caused Man’s Cancer

March 20, 2019, 11:25 AM UTC

The share price of Bayer (BAYRY) plummetted Wednesday, following a U.S. court’s decision that its Roundup weedkiller played a substantial role in the development of non-Hodgkin lymphoma by Californian Edwin Hardeman.

In the Frankfurt stock exchange, the German conglomerate’s share price plummeted by more than 12% Wednesday to €60.81 ($69.04), spurred by fears that the ruling may clear a path for other lawsuits against the chemical giant. Determining causation was just the first phase in the Hardeman v Monsanto trial; the second phase, which begins Wednesday, will determine Bayer’s liability.

Federal judge Vince Chhabria is overseeing hundreds of Roundup lawsuits, according to the AP, and Hardeman’s case is the first of three “bellwether trials” regarding glyphosate. Bayer faces lawsuits from more than 11,200 people regarding its glyphosate-containing weedkillers, Roundup and Ranger Pro.

In a statement released Monday, the company expressed disappointment with the jury’s decision and maintained that Roundup’s active ingredient, glyphosate, does not cause cancer. “We are confident the evidence in phase two will show that Monsanto’s conduct has been appropriate and that the company should not be liable for Mr. Hardeman’s cancer,” the company said.

It added, “Regardless of the outcome, however, the decision in phase one of this trial has no impact on future cases and trials because each one has its own factual and legal circumstances.”

Hardeman’s lawyers, Aimee Wagstaff and Jennifer Moore, said their client was pleased with the jury’s decision. “Now we can focus on the evidence that Monsanto has not taken a responsible, objective approach to the safety of Roundup,” they told the Wall Street Journal.

Analysts at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. believe the scientific evidence is in Bayer’s favor, but settling the litigation could cost the company up to $5 billion, WSJ reported.

In August, a jury awarded $289 million in damages (later cut to $78 million) in a similar case brought by Californian school groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson. In this instance, Bayer claimed the jury was overly influenced by the plaintiffs’ allegations of corporate misconduct and did not focus on the science. Bayer has appealed the decision.

In 2017, California added glyphosate to its warning list of known carcinogens. The EU has also been pressured to ban the pesticide, although the chemical was relicensed through 2022 by a very narrow parliamentary vote.

At the beginning of March, a top EU court ruled that studies regarding the safety of glyphosate must be made public. Previously, the EU Food Safety Authority had declined to release glyphosate study results on the grounds of business confidentiality.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Health Organization say glyphosate is “unlikely to pose a carcinogenic risk to humans from exposure through the diet,” a view shared by the EU Food Safety Authority and the European Chemicals Agency. But the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a subsidiary of WHO, concluded in 2015 that glyphosate was “probably carcinogenic to humans.”

Bayer’s $63 billion purchase of U.S. agriculture giant Monsanto last June spelled the end of what was once called “almost surely the most vilified company on the planet.” Monsanto had drawn ire over decades for producing Agent Orange, DDT and, more recently, genetically modified organisms (GMOs). While Monsanto developed glyphosate, the chemical’s patent has expired and it is sold worldwide by dozens of chemical companies including Dow Agrosciences and BASF.