Bayer Braces for ‘Significant Surge’ in Roundup Plaintiffs

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(Bloomberg) -- 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, adding pressure on the company to seek a settlement.

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. The current number of plaintiffs could exceed 45,000, compared with Bayer’s last estimate of 18,400 in July, analysts from JPMorgan Chase & Co. wrote in a note last week.

An upswell would ratchet up the stakes for Bayer, which inherited the mountain of litigation last year in the $63 billion takeover of Monsanto. The Roundup crisis has already 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.

Bayer Braces for ‘Significant Surge’ in Roundup Plaintiffs

“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 shares fell as much as 1.2% on Wednesday and were fetching 66.14 euros as of 2:37 p.m. in Frankfurt.

The sheer number of lawsuits matters in the ongoing mediation talks. Analysts have estimated that settling all the U.S. lawsuits could cost anywhere from $2.5 billion to $20 billion. Some Bayer investors have said that a global settlement of anything under $10 billion would be worth it. A handful of trials that were scheduled for this fall have been postponed to early 2020 as the sides negotiate a possible resolution.

Bayer’s comments came after JPMorgan 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, such as in California where it’s lost the three trials.

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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