Bayer AG Completes Monsanto Purchase - What’s Next On Litigation Docket?

Bayer now faces Roundup MDL 2741 along with Xarelto MDL 2592 and more than 30,000 plaintiffs

By Mark A. York (March 7, 2019)

 (MASS TORT NEXUS MEDIA) The integration of Monsanto into the Bayer AG Group was completed as of August 2018, which by chance coincided with the $289 million jury verdict against Monsanto on August 10, 2018 in a California trial over its Roundup “glyphosate” weed killer. The state court jury found that Monsanto’s Roundup was the cause of plaintiff R Johnson’s fatal diagnosis of non-hodgkins lymphoma.

As part of the deal completion, there were numerous requirements set by the US Department of Justice including the divestment by Bayer of certain Crop Science businesses to BASF Corp., which had sales volumes of around 2.2 billion euros. Bayer already became the sole owner of Monsanto Company on June 7, 2018, by becoming the sole Monsanto stock shareholder, resulting in Bayer assuming additional liabilities related to Monsanto’s Roundup litigation dockets across the United States.

The acquisition of Monsanto creates a market leading worldwide agriculture company, with Bayer assuming a much more direct access route to the highly coveted US farm and crop markets.

As part of the Bayer acquisition, they have inherited the Monsanto docket of Roundup litigation pending state and federal dockets across the USA. There is a current Monsanto Roundup trial underway in the US District Court in San Francisco that started February 25, 2019 in front of Judge Vince Chhabria, in the first Monsanto Roundup MDL 2740 bellwether trial. See Mass Tort Nexus Roundup Briefcase ROUNDUP-MONSANTO-(GLYPHOSATE)-MDL-2741-(USDC-ND-California).

Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, has been under scrutiny for years including when in 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which is part of the World Health Organization, identified the ingredient as a “probable carcinogen.” Monsanto has adamantly denied those claims. Bayer now faces a flurry of back to back trial is state and federal courtrooms with the first trial having just started.

Monsanto Roundup Trial Schedule 2019-2020

02/25/2019  – Federal Court – Hardeman (underway)
03/18/2019  – CA JCCP – Pilliod (2 plaintiffs)
04/01/2019  – St. Louis City Court – Hall
04/22/2019  – St. Louis County Court – Gordon
05/25/2019  – Federal Court – Stevick or Gebeyehou
09/09/2019  – St. Louis County Court – 4 plaintiffs
01/21/2020  – St. Louis City Court – 10 plaintiffs
03/23/2020  – St. Louis City Court

The German parent entity Bayer AG, has started aggressively divesting assets including their animal products division, cutting consumer marketing group costs, closing several US manufacturing locations to the tune of more than $3 billion. Where Bayer decides to put the recently acquired cash remains to be seen, since they are also facing more than 20,000 lawsuits in the Xarelto MDL 2592 litigation.

See Mass Tort Nexus Briefcase Re: XARELTO-(rivaroxaban)-MDL-2592-USDC-ED-Louisiana

MONSANTO ROUNDUP “GLYPHOSATE” MDL 2741

Bayer AG’s chief executive officer Werner Baumann, said this week the company might consider settling lawsuits over Monsanto’s glyphosate-containing weed-killers depending on how high court costs rise, but stressed it remained focused on defending the combined company against claims they cause cancer.

“If we can settle nuisances at some point where the defense costs in preparing cases are higher than potential settlement amounts, we will of course consider it from an economic standpoint,” CEO Werner Baumann told reporters when asked whether there was any scenario in which Bayer would consider settlement.

Baumann expressed confidence that Bayer could handle the litigation, and cited its “inexpensive” $12 million settlement of 4,000 lawsuits over its contraceptive Mirena device. Bayer also won five of six trials over its best-selling bloodthinner Xarelto, over which it faces 24,000 U.S. lawsuits. The sixth jury found in favor of a plaintiff, but a judge later overturned the decision.

“Due to our exposure as a pharmaceutical company, we have the experience to defend those (glyphosate) cases,” he said, also adding “the jury pool likely has grown more hostile” due to negative media coverage following the Johnson verdict.

Baumann said the company’s legal strategy had been revised following the integration of Bayer and Monsanto in mid-August. He declined to provide details, but recent court filings reveal some of the steps the company has taken.

Bayer recently added the attorneys from law firm Arnold & Portner, who won the Xarelto cases for the company to its glyphosate defense team.

As for the glyphosate verdict in California state court on August 10, 2018, Bayer believes that the jury’s decision is at odds with the weight of scientific evidence, decades of real world experience and the conclusions of regulators around the world that all confirm glyphosate is safe and does not cause non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recently reaffirmed glyphosate does not cause cancer. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) and other regulators around the world have also concluded that glyphosate can be used safely.

CEO Baumann had invited German media to visit Bayer’s new operations in the former research and development facilities of Monsanto in St. Louis, Missouri, when he made the statements on Monsanto litigation and bringing in the Bayer legal philosophy to support the ever-growing Roundup litigation in dockets across the country.

LITIGATION IMPACT ON BAYER EARNINGS

Shares in Bayer have lost 25 percent in value since Aug. 10, when a San Francisco jury awarded $289 million to Dewayne Johnson on grounds Monsanto failed to warn the school groundskeeper and other consumers of the cancer risks posed by glyphosate-based RoundUp and Ranger Pro.

Johnson has terminal non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma that he alleges was caused by the herbicides. The jury’s verdict is just the first step in this case, and it remains subject to post-trial motions in the trial court and to an appeal, as announced by Monsanto. As this case proceeds, Bayer believes courts ultimately will find that Monsanto and glyphosate were not responsible for Mr. Johnson’s illness.

Bayer denies that glyphosate causes cancer and says decades of scientific studies and real-world use have shown the chemical to be safe for human use.

The number of glyphosate cases that Bayer faces across the United States has jumped to more than 11,000, prompting concerns among investors about the impact of litigation costs on Bayer’s bottom line.

More recently, Bayer AG’s defense of Monsanto and its weed killer has taken a big hit after a major academic journal said Monsanto has improperly influenced study results related to a connection between cancer and glyphosate. . The journal, Critical Reviews in Toxicology a major toxicology peer review group that analyzes health risks of chemicals, now supports plaintiffs contentions that Monsanto ghost-wrote safety reviews into Roundup and its primary ingredient glyphosate and links to cancer.

Critical Review in Toxicology Issues Correction of Glyphosate-Monsanto “Roundup Study”

Sept. 27, 2018 – The academic journal Critical Reviews in Toxicology issued corrections yesterday for articles that were published in a 2016 supplemental issue dedicated to reviewing the safety of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer.

The corrections indicate that Monsanto did not fully disclose its involvement in the five articles published under the title, “An Independent Review of the Carcinogenic Potential of Glyphosate,” which concluded that glyphosate was not likely carcinogenic to humans. The review was written by expert panels overseen by Intertek, a consulting firm hired by Monsanto.

Critical Reviews in Toxicology’s publisher, Taylor & Francis, issued a rare “Expression of Concern” because the review authors failed to provide “an adequate explanation as to why the necessary level of transparency was not met on first submission.”

The journal’s correction bolsters what Roundup cancer attorneys have been saying for years: rather than informing consumers and the public about the link between Roundup and non-Hodgkin lymphoma, Monsanto ghostwrote science and engaged in deceptive PR campaigns to create the impression that its blockbuster Roundup herbicide is safe.

The law firm of Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman, which represents nearly 1,000 plaintiffs in Roundup cancer lawsuits, issued the following statement on the journal corrections:

“This decision confirms, as we have long contended based on the documentary evidence, that Monsanto made substantial contributions to these manuscripts. However, while some of Monsanto’s involvement in these publications has been acknowledged in the corrections, the investigation by Taylor & Francis fell far short of revealing the extent to which Monsanto violated scientific standards and ethics in this “independent” review.”

The corrections, incorporating apologies from several authors for their declaration failures, are a step in the right direction but do not go far enough to address what we know to be true based on the evidence.

For example:

  • Another correction states that Monsanto scientist William Heydens “pointed out some typographical errors.” Based on the documents we have, Heydens was far more involved in drafting, editing and organizing the reviews than the correction indicates. In an email correspondence with Dr. Ashley Roberts of Intertek, Heydens admits to writing “a draft introduction chapter” for the series of reviews, then asks Roberts “who should be the ultimate author” of the introduction chapter he ghostwrote. Dr. Heydens’ full involvement in these reviews remains uncorrected despite the fact that many of his edits and revisions can be found in the published final manuscript.
  • The reviews were conceived as part of a company plan to discredit IARC well before the agency came to its conclusion that glyphosate is a probable human carcinogen. One of the plan’s stated goals was to “orchestrate outcry with IARC decision, ”while another plan made clear that the company sought a “WHO Retraction” and made it a priority to “invalidate relevance of IARC.” A Monsanto “Post-IARC Meeting” details several scientists that Monsanto pegged as potential authors. The meeting presentation also asks the question, “How much writing can be done by Monsanto scientists to help keep costs down?” In an email under the subject “Post-IARC Activities to Support Glyphosate,” Monsanto executive Michael Koch wrote that the review on animal data cited by IARC should be “initiated by MON as ghost writers,” and “this would be more powerful if authored by non-Monsanto scientists (e.g., Kirkland, Kier, Williams, Greim and maybe Keith Solomon.)
  • The authors of these papers cited previous reviews that were ghostwritten by Monsanto. In an email discussing the plan for the review papers, Heydens wrote, “An option would be to add Greim and Kier or Kirkland to have their names on the publication, but we would be keeping the cost down by us doing the writing and they would just edit & sign their names so to speak. Recall that is how we handled Williams, Kroes & Munro, 2000.”

While we are pleased that the journal will take steps to correct some of the falsehoods in the original declaration of interest and acknowledgment, and we commend the authors who apologized for their violation of disclosure requirements, the scientific integrity of this “review” was compromised the day it was published and, therefore, a complete disclosure of Monsanto’s involvement, ghostwriting and payments to the experts undermining any assertions of their independence is necessary.

Our release of the Monsanto Papers and their part in the recent Monsanto verdict clearly put pressure on these authors to take at least these steps toward correcting the misleading impression that their reviews were free of Monsanto involvement and direction. It is a shame that Monsanto and now Bayer refuse to apologize for their role in this affair. We will continue to put pressure on Monsanto and Bayer to vindicate the rights of our clients.

Allegations of Ghostwriting Central to $289.2 Million Monsanto Roundup Verdict

Monsanto has long maintained that the 2016 glyphosate review in Critical Reviews in Toxicology was independent, and the original Declaration of Interest underscored the company’s claim:

“The Expert Panelists were engaged by, and acted as consultants to, Intertek, and were not directly contacted by the Monsanto Company. Funding for this evaluation was provided to Intertek by the Monsanto Company which is a primary producer of glyphosate and products containing this active ingredient. Neither any Monsanto company employees nor any attorneys reviewed any of the Expert Panel’s manuscripts prior to submission to the journal.”

But according to internal company documents obtained during the discovery phase of the Monsanto Roundup litigation, it is evident that “An Independent Review of the Carcinogenic Potential of Glyphosate” was anything but independent.

Allegations of ghostwriting scientific literature on glyphosate and Roundup were presented in the first Monsanto Roundup lawsuit to proceed to trial. The suit, filed by former California groundskeeper, Dewayne “Lee” Johnson, culminated in a $289.2 million verdict last month against Monsanto.

Internal company documents that are now part of the Monsanto Papers show that Monsanto scientist and executive William Heydens did not just review the glyphosate review; Heydens actually drafted and edited the work without disclosing his or his company’s involvement.

In an email communication between Heydens and Dr. Ashley Roberts, Heydens wrote:

“OK, I have gone through the entire document and indicated what I think should stay, what can go, and in a couple spots I did a little editing. I took a crack at adding a little text: on page 10 to address John’s comments about toxicologists’ use of Hill’s criteria…”

Heydens also argued with one of the paper’s authors, Dr. John Acquavella, about statements he wanted to include about IARC. In the comments of a draft of the paper, Acquavella deemed the statements “inflammatory” and “not necessary,” to which Heydens said, “I would ignore John’s comment.”

During a deposition, Heydens admitted that draft manuscripts of the glyphosate review were sent to him, and that he read “parts of them” before the paper was published. When asked whether or not he made dozens of edits to the manuscript, Heydens said, “I don’t recall.”

“Although I’m glad the journal is now on record finding that they were misled when publishing these articles, a retraction is more than warranted for this situation,” said Nathan Donley, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity. Donley was one of four scientists to send a letter to the editors of Critical Reviews in Toxicology last year asking for a retraction.

“Furthermore, the journal appears to be allowing the phrase ‘an independent review’ to remain in the title of the issue. There is nothing independent about this review by any stretch of the imagination.”

Reviews Updated with New Acknowledgments and Declaration of Interest Sections

Several of the authors issued apologies in the updated Declaration of Interest sections of three of the five review papers, including:

  • Keith R. Solomon (has worked as consultant for Monsanto)
  • David Brusick (has worked as consultant for Monsanto)
  • Marilyn Aardema
  • Larry Kier (has worked as consultant for Monsanto)
  • David Kirkland (has worked as consultant for Monsanto)
  • Gary Williams (has worked as consultant for Monsanto)
  • John Acquavella (former Monsanto employee, has worked as consultant for Monsanto)
  • David Garabrant
  • Gary Marsh
  • Tom Sorahan (former Monsanto employee, has worked as consultant for Monsanto)
  • Douglas L. Weed (has worked as consultant for Monsanto)

2003 De Roos Pesticide Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Study

In this study, researchers analyzed data that was originally gathered by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in the 1980s. As part of its investigation into the association between pesticide exposure and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in men, the NCI conducted three case control studies; one in Nebraska, one in Iowa and Minnesota, and one in Kansas. In case control studies, individuals with a disease, the cases, are compared to subjects without the disease, the controls. The goal is to determine if the cases were exposed to certain substances much more frequently than the controls. Researchers can use the data to estimate how much exposure to the substance increases the risk of acquiring the disease.

De Roos and his group, which included a number of scientists who had been involved in the three original studies, wanted to explore the effect of exposure to multiple pesticides (the pesticide group includes insecticides and herbicides like Roundup) on NHL risk. The researchers analyzed data from 870 cases and 2,569 controls. Men in both groups were interviewed about their exposure to agricultural pesticides and other risk factors for NHL. Forty-seven insecticides and herbicides were examined.

De Roos reported that nine pesticides, including glyphosate, were associated with increased incidence of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. It is significant that only nine of the 47 pesticides were linked to NHL. This, says De Roos, suggests that the findings for these pesticides were not simply the result of recall bias (inaccuracies in the recall of the subjects interviewed) or bias related to the selection of the 47 pesticides analyzed in the study. In other words, the association of these nine pesticides with NHL did not just happen by chance or because of a fault with the way the study was conducted. The high toxicity of these pesticides can be seen in the fact that four of them (fonofos, chlordane, dieldrin and copper acetoarsenite) have since been banned in the United States. A fifth, diazinon, used to be a popular insecticide, but can no longer be purchased by consumers due its health risks to humans, particularly children. Yet another (atrazine) was banned in the European Union. This is the exclusive “club” of which glyphosate was discovered to be a member.

When De Roos restricted her analysis to just these nine “potentially carcinogenic” pesticides, she discovered a significant trend. The more of these pesticides a subject used, the more the NHL incidence increased. Subjects who used five or more of the nine pesticides were “twice as likely to be NHL cases than controls.” It turned out that glyphosate was a special ingredient in this “stew” of highly toxic pesticides. When De Roos removed it and repeated the analysis with just eight pesticides, the trend towards increasing NHL incidence when an increased number of pesticides was used disappeared.

De Roos makes an important point at the conclusion of this study. For regulatory purposes, government agencies necessarily focus on pesticides individually. But risks to the public are often amplified by exposure to multiple pesticides. Protecting public health must involve an assessment of pesticides not just individually, but as they are used in possible combination with other pesticides.

Summary Information

Title
Integrative assessment of multiple pesticides as risk factors for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma among men

Authors
A J De Roos1, S H Zahm1, K P Cantor1, D D Weisenburger2, F F Holmes3, L F Burmeister4, A Blair1

  1. Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, National Cancer Institute, USA
  2. University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, NE, USA
  3. Kansas University Medical Center, Kansas City, KS, USA
  4. University of Iowa College of Medicine, Iowa City, IA, USA

Journal
Occupational and Environmental Medicine and Chemical Toxicology; 60 (9), September 2003

HOW MONSANTO MANIPULATED THE SYSTEM

Newly-released emails written by executives at Monsanto Co. show that Monsanto employees ghostwrote articles for independent scientists. Leading up to a regulatory hearing on the safety of glyphosate, Monsanto employees were looking for scientific studies showing that Roundup is safe.

Monsanto executive William “Bill” Heydens, Regulatory Product Safety Assessment Lead, instructed his staff to ghostwrite portions of a scientific article, planning to have scientists “just sign their names” to the study.

“Monsanto tells us that Roundup is safe because scientists say it is safe.  But apparently scientists sign their names, while Monsanto signs the checks,” says Kara Cook-Schultz, Toxics Director at U.S. PIRG. “This calls into question multiple studies written, or possibly ghostwritten, by agricultural scientists.”

  Click here to see the actual unsealed documents with Heyden’s brazen ghost-writing plan.

 

Also included in the email chain is evidence showing that Monsanto regularly works together with other international chemical companies—such as Syngenta and Dow—to publish scientific papers. Christophe Gustin, Monsanto’s Crop Protection Regulatory Affairs Lead at Monsanto Europe, asked for Syngenta and Dow’s sign-off prior to hiring a scientist to publish the results of internal, unpublished studies on Roundup.

Court records show that Monsanto was tipped off by the US EPA, of a determination  by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, part of the World Health Organization, that glyphosate was a probable carcinogen. The WHO cited direct research linking glyphosate to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The unreleased study results and findings were illegally handed over to Monsanto by US EPA deputy division director Jess Rowland as soon as it came across his desk. That led the company to prepare a public relations assault on the finding well in advance of its publication. Monsanto executives, in their internal email traffic, also said Mr. Rowland had promised to beat back an effort by the Department of Health and Human Services to conduct its own review.

People should know that there are superb scientists in the world who would disagree with Monsanto and some of the regulatory agencies’ evaluations, and even E.P.A. has disagreement within the agency

People should know that there are superb scientists in the world who would disagree with Monsanto and some of the regulatory agencies’ evaluations, and even E.P.A. has disagreement within the agency.

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