Bayer’s $30 Billion Roundup Crisis Heats Up as It Braces for a ‘Significant Surge’ of New Lawsuits

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Bayer AG said it anticipates a “significant surge” in the number of plaintiffs suing the company over the weedkiller Roundup when it reports earnings later this month.

An increase in advertising by U.S. attorneys seeking new clients since mediation talks began will likely add to the litigation, the German drugs and chemicals giant said in an emailed statement. There were 18,400 plaintiffs as of July, the last time Bayer provided an update.

The Roundup crisis has cost Bayer more than $30 billion in market value as the company lost three U.S. trials over whether the popular herbicide causes cancer, suffered an unprecedented shareholder vote of no confidence and faced speculation about a breakup. A swelling number of plaintiffs adds to the pressure to settle the mountain of litigation inherited last year in the $63 billion takeover of Monsanto.

Bayer shares fell as much as 1.2% on Wednesday and were little changed as of 12:16 p.m. in Frankfurt trading.

“The number of plaintiffs is not an indication of the merits of these cases,” Bayer said. The company says Roundup is safe and has appealed the trial losses.

The sheer number of cases is important in the ongoing mediation talks. Analysts have estimated that settling all the U.S. lawsuits could cost between $2.5 billion and $20 billion. Some Bayer investors have said that a global settlement of anything under $10 billion would be worth it.

Bayer’s comments came after JPMorgan Chase & Co. analysts scrutinized filings in St. Louis County and St. Louis City courts and concluded there could be 26,877 new plaintiffs in those venues alone. The analysis didn’t tally new cases elsewhere.

More than 450 new Roundup cases — many with multiple plaintiffs — were filed in the St. Louis County courts since July 11, roughly the same number as in the preceding two years, according to a list provided by a court spokeswoman.

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