Bayer’s stock price hit an almost seven-year low Tuesday, in the wake of a third U.S. jury verdict that found its Roundup weedkiller to be a cause of people’s cancer.
A Californian jury said Monday that Bayer had to pay Alva and Alberta Pilliod, both of whom had used the herbicide that Bayer acquired via Monsanto last year, $2 billion in punitive damages and $55 million in compensatory damages. The Pilliods both have non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
The level of punitive damages may be reduced on appeal, but right now it’s the eighth-biggest product-defect jury award in U.S. history.
Bayer’s management was already in hot water over the wisdom of the Monsanto takeover, with shareholders having effectively told CEO Werner Baumann in a no-confidence vote last month that his job is in jeopardy. Now the heat has been cranked up.
Bayer’s day began on Tuesday with a share-price drop to €53.66 ($60.29)—a level it has not seen since June 2012, and which represents an almost 46% fall in value since the closure of the Bayer-Monsanto merger in June last year. At the time of writing, the share price had recovered to €55.20, which is still down 2.25% on the day, and still down more than 44% since the merger’s closure.
The chemicals giant responded to the Pilliod verdict by saying it has “great sympathy” for the couple, “but the evidence in this case was clear that both have long histories of illnesses known to be substantial risk factors for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL), most NHL has no known cause, and there is not reliable scientific evidence to conclude that glyphosate-based herbicides were the ‘but for’ cause of their illnesses as the jury was required to find in this case.”
Bayer will appeal, just as it has with the earlier verdicts.
The firm also stressed that the verdict clashed with the view of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)—reiterated just weeks ago—that glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, is not carcinogenic. That view itself conflicts with a 2015 report by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer, which said glyphosate was “probably carcinogenic to humans.”
The latest verdict may be the most expensive nightmare to hit Bayer this month, but it’s not the only one.
On Friday, the French newspaper Le Monde broke the news that the public relations agency FleishmanHillard had compiled a list of over 200 journalists, politicians and scientists showing their positions on Monsanto, in an effort to help Bayer launch a media counter-offensive. Other information on the list included the people’s phone numbers, addresses and, reportedly, their leisure pursuits. This is likely illegal under European data protection law, and Bayer ended up suspending its work with the agency and apologizing for the list’s creation. On Tuesday, the Agence France-Presse (AFP) news agency said it had made a complaint to the country’s data protection authority, as four of its journalists were on the list.
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