Two Michigan-based retirement systems can sue Bayer over the pharmaceutical giant’s failure to disclose the financial risks associated with the company’s 2018 acquisition of the Monsanto Corporation and Monsanto’s glyphosate-based, best-selling herbicide, Roundup. 

Judge Richard Seeborg, Chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, denied Bayer’s motion to dismiss a class action complaint against it on Oct. 19. Seeborg ruled that the city of Grand Rapids (MI) General Retirement System and that city’s Police and Fire Retirement System “adequately pleaded violations … of the Exchange Act,” reported

The Exchange Act refers to The Securities and Exchange Act of 1934, the Congressional legislation that regulates securities trading and protects investors from fraud.

Judge Seeborg denied some of the plaintiffs’ claims, having stated that “unsupported theories would need to be addressed in an amended complaint, or they would be discarded as the case moves forward.”

The two Systems filed suit against Bayer in 2020. Bayer’s $63 billion takeover of Monsanto was finalized on June 7, 2018. The next month, on July 9, the first Roundup trial began, pitting plaintiff Dewayne “Lee” Johnson, a former Bay Area school groundskeeper, against Monsanto. 

A jury found that Johnson developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma because of exposure to Roundup and awarded him $289 million. The plaintiff's verdict was confirmed, although Johnson’s award was eventually reduced to $20.5 million. 

Since Johnson emerged victorious, over 125,000 individuals have filed Roundup cancer claims. Three other Roundup cases have gone to trial. 

Bayer lost the second and third trials, but a jury returned a defense verdict Oct. 5 in the fifth trial, in which the plaintiff was a young boy with a rare form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The fourth Roundup trial has not yet concluded.  

In June 2020, Bayer announced it would resolve approximately 95,000 claims for nearly $11 billion. Over 30,000 plaintiffs have refused to join the settlement class, opting instead to have their cases litigated. 

Bayer has proposed two different plans to resolve Roundup cases that have yet to be filed for an additional $2 billion. However, the judge overseeing the consolidation of Roundup lawsuits in federal court has rejected both of Bayer’s proposals. 

Earlier this year, Bayer announced it would stop selling Roundup to recreational gardeners by 2023, and that it would replace its commercial glyphosate-based herbicides with an alternative active compound.