Bayer Seeks Outside Help In Roundup Legal Battle

This week, Wall Street Journal writers Ruth Bender and Ben Dummett reported that, “Bayer AG on Wednesday bowed to pressure from investors, saying it would seek outside help and review its approach in the legal battle with thousands of cancer patients who blame the herbicide Roundup for their illness.

“The chemicals and pharmaceutical giant said it would create a special committee of eight supervisory board members to monitor Roundup lawsuits and consult with management on legal strategies.

“It also named U.S. lawyer John H. Beisner, an expert on mass tort and product litigation at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, to advise the board on all Roundup legal matters, including trial tactics and mediation.”

The Journal article noted that, “Bayer has faced mounting pressure from shareholders to show it is taking concrete action to resolve litigation over its Roundup weedkillers—a legal battle involving more than 13,000 plaintiffs that has wiped out some 40% of the company’s market value over the past year. Shareholders have been venting their anger at management for entangling the company in a damaging legal fight by buying Roundup creator Monsanto Co. last year.

“U.S. hedge fund Elliott Management Corp., which owns some €1.1 billion ($1.25 billion) worth of Bayer shares, or about 2% of the company, backed Bayer’s latest steps. It said the new committee would provide ‘a new level of oversight and a fresh perspective to a litigation strategy in need of radical overhaul and help guide the company towards a rational, fair and swift settlement.'”

This week’s article added that, “Furious about the loss in value and fearing further damage to Bayer, some institutional shareholders, including Germany’s Deka Investment, demanded that Bayer reshape its supervisory board to better deal with the current legal challenge and the group’s increased presence in crop science. Some also said they wanted the company to bring in an expert to deal with the Roundup litigation.”

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