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From the article by Carey Gillam:
In an expensive clean-up of Monsanto litigation messes, Bayer AG said Wednesday that it will pay out more than $10 billion to settle tens of thousands of U.S. claims brought against Monsanto over its Roundup herbicide, as well as $400 million to resolve lawsuits over Monsanto’s dicamba herbicide and $650 million for PCB pollution claims.
The resolutions come two years after Bayer bought Monsanto for $63 billion and almost immediately saw share prices plummet due to the Roundup liability.
The Institute for Responsible Technology is working to protect you & the World from GMOs (and while we’re at it, Roundup®...) To find out exactly how we do this and to subscribe to our newsletter visit https://www.responsibletechnology.org/
Notes for this week's Podcast
This week's Transcript
Jeffrey: Hi everyone. My name is Jeffrey Smith. I'm with my friend Carey Gillam. Carey is an outstanding reporter. I met you when you were working for Reuters and Monsanto was on your beat, giving you a hassle for telling the truth. So now, you get to tell the truth about Monsanto, acting more independently than Reuters. Congratulations for covering the trial so carefully, so amazingly, that you're writing a book, which we can't wait to read. It's going to come out next year. Welcome Carey.
Carey: Thank you. Thanks Jeff.
Jeffrey: So, today is a big day. Why don't you announce what happened today? This is the breaking news that is extremely exciting.
Carey: Yes, today was a huge day. We actually got the news that we'd been waiting for, you know, for several months! As many people know, if you followed this Roundup litigation at all, you know, there are tens of thousands of plaintiffs out there who have claims that Monsanto's Roundup and other glyphosate herbicides caused them to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Today Bayer, the company that bought Monsanto two years ago, announced that it would pay $10.9 billion to settle these Roundup litigation claims. There are many details within that settlement, but it certainly is good news for many people who have been waiting a very long time for some financial compensation and some help for all of the losses and the devastation that they've suffered. It's not as much as a lot of people wanted. Certainly there are a lot of plaintiffs who are not going to become millionaires, by any means, because of this. But, it does provide some measure of compensation for all that they've been going through.
Jeffrey: Yeah, I've heard the number that I think was in the New York times. It was between $5,000 and $250,000, depending on the injury. Is that the number that you've come up with?
Carey: So, no, I don't know that there are actually any specific numbers at this point. The lawyers that I have talked to have explained to me that the way that this will work is that each individual firm, depending on how many clients, they may have 1,000 clients, or they may have 7,000 or 10,000 clients; they are expecting to bring in what they call a special master. Each firm could do that themselves, or they could do it collaboratively, two or three firms together, but the special master will then put together a grid and will assign points. Different plaintiffs will be given points, or deducted points, based upon their condition, how long they had non-Hodgkin lymphoma and how severe it is. Did they have to undergo a lot of painful treatments? There will be a lot of different things that will be calculated and put into this grid and then they will be paid based upon this point system. It’s how it has been explained to me. For example, people who are more severely sick or perhaps someone who has died and their spouse is now the plaintiff or someone who has suffered through numerous bone marrow transplants and is not expected to live much longer. People like that might get more money than people who were able to successfully battle the cancer back and have been in remission for many years.
Jeffrey: We both have different inside scoops in terms of the professionals and attorneys we have both interviewed. But what I am interested in now, Carey, since you have logged more hours than any human alive interviewing attorneys and plaintiffs in preparation for your new book, is hear the dramatic stories that came out. Stories that were uncovered in your research and in the trial. I have to say that we were supported by outstanding attorneys in the first three trials who gave us as much information as was allowed by the judges, exposing the damage, the dangers and the coverup by Monsanto. The stories that came out were shocking and appalling. I've heard second hand that the jurors were just outraged. You've spoken to several, so I would like to hear some of the inside scoop and also what this whole set of trials has meant to Monsanto Bayer. What has it done to their bottom line, for their shareholder confidence, for their status in the world, et cetera? So why don't you take us on a tour, starting with the most outrageous or shocking stories that come to mind?
Carey: Oh, my goodness. Well, most of your listeners and followers have heard about the ghost writing, obviously. These cases were fueled in large part, not only by scientific literature, but also by discovery documents that the lawyers were able to obtain from inside Monsanto, from their own files through court ordered discovery. What you saw in a lot of this internal communication is that, dating back decades, Monsanto has been engaged in very deceptive practices, including tinkering with the scientific literature and ghost writing papers that would appear in the literature to be independent of Monsanto. They were declaring glyphosate and Roundup, glyphosate based herbicides to be totally safe, to not be a cancer risk, and to not be a risk to reproductive health. So you saw a good deal of that. You saw from the internal documents the efforts made by Monsanto to manipulate regulatory reviews and to unduly influence the regulators, the EPA in particular, as well as regulators in Europe and elsewhere.
We saw secret payments to academics and to front groups that would carry out the mission and the marching orders of Monsanto to again, defend its products. So, we were able to see a lot of deception, definitely, surrounding Monsanto's marketing of these glyphosate based herbicides. Then, of course, there's quite a bit of science that shows reason to be concerned. When the juries saw all that information put together and presented by these very skilled attorneys, what they came back with were some very high damage awards — $2 billion in the case of one married couple, $289 million for groundskeeper Lee Johnson, and another $80 million for Edwin Hardeman. The trial judge has reduced all of those awards, saying they were too extreme, so they're all on appeal now and they all are not subject to this settlement. So we still have a long way to go in terms of that. But yeah, it's been very revealing. It was noteworthy today, even though they're paying $10 billion, that Bayer still continues saying there's no evidence that this causes cancer.
Jeffrey: I know, and it's interesting that they have a position that science is on their side and that the jurors were just moved by emotional stories. Well, some of those emotional stories were how Monsanto rigged their science because that made the jurors absolutely furious. What was your favorite way that Monsanto…sorry, it's not a good word to use. What was your favorite story about how Monsanto abused science in order to force a conclusion of safety?
Carey: Well, I mean, there's probably a couple of different answers. One thing I thought was the most egregious was what Monsanto did in 2015 and ’16, which was fund a group of papers to be published. They hired a group called Intertek (formerly known as Cantox of Mississauga, Ont.) to work with specific scientists to put together papers that would counteract or contradict the international agency for research on cancer. They said, publicly, that even though they were paying the consulting firm, that the papers would be done completely autonomously and independently. Monsanto would have nothing to do with the determinations within these papers and that they would be a truly independent evaluation of the carcinogenicity risk of glyphosate based herbicides. What we found out through internal emails, and others, was that Monsanto scientists were heavily involved in editing, rewriting, and changing sections. Things were changed to such a degree that when the emails all became public, the publisher of the journal said that the papers needed to be retracted and then got into a very heated argument with the editor. That became a big scandal.
Anyway, those papers are still out there. They have been corrected and clarified to show Monsanto's involvement, but that was a very direct and egregious, deceptive effort by Monsanto. Something I thought was rather humorous were internal documents that talked about another paper, “Williams Crows in a Row," published in the year 2000. Monsanto, internally, was celebrating when this paper was completed. They celebrated and talked about how they spent years. So many people in Monsanto spent years putting these independent papers together. The papers were going to be the bedrock for regulatory approvals and findings of safety around the world. They were going to celebrate by printing out special shirts that they could all wear…that sort of thing.
Jeffrey: I did not know about the shirts, but I do know that there was one fellow who was trying to brag about his accomplishments for the year and wrote down, ‘ghost wrote that paper’ using the word ghost writing.
Carey: They use that term quite frequently.
Jeffrey: Of course, to the public, they say, “We don't ghost write,” and internally they say, “We ghost write.”
Carey: Yes, yes.
Jeffrey: So what was the impact of the trials on Bayer? Why don't you give the story about Bayer purchasing Monsanto, what they expected to get and what they ended up with?
Carey: Oh my, well, I think everybody could have told them what…
Jeffrey: I tried.
Carey: They actually closed on the purchase of Monsanto, paying $63 billion, in June of 2018. June of 2018 was when the very first Roundup trial began out in San Francisco. By August, two months later, the jury had come back unanimously saying, “yes,” the science shows that Roundup causes cancer and “yes,” Monsanto has acted with malice and deception to hide the risks and is negligent and needs to pay $289 million, $250 million in punitive damages. Bayer shares plummeted immediately. The company was rocked. The investors were very upset and the anger only grew over the months as two more trials took place and two more, very damaging verdicts came down. They're actually now as a shareholder lawsuit pending against Bayer over the damages. So, it has been a very difficult road for Bayer since purchasing Monsanto. They also have Dicamba litigation, which is another Monsanto herbicide issue and product and problem in the United States. Part of their announcement today, in addition to the Roundup litigation is that they are paying some $400 million to settle some lawsuits in the U S over Dicamba.
Jeffrey: Now we've talked about Dicamba on the Facebook Lives. In fact, there's one that has about 35,000 views on the Institute for Responsible Technology’s Facebook page. So, you can get a background there. In short, because Roundup was used so much, weeds developed resistance, so they created new GMO soy and cotton. They could resist not only Roundup, but also Dicamba. Now Dicamba has been used for years, but only at certain times of the year, early on, because it has a tendency to rise into the air move and then land and damage or destroy other crops. That's what happened in mass to large sections of the West, South Midwest and South. The very first trial which you wrote about was the $265 million award for a peach orchard owner — $250 million in punitive damages and $15 million in compensatory. Just like in the Roundup litigation related to non Hodgkin's lymphoma, when the discovery showed that they were manipulating without telling the public, the documents that were made public, correct me if I'm wrong, show that they not only knew that Dicamba, under their new scheme, was going to cause damage, they actually predicted thousands and thousands of complaints laying out the number of complaints each year. So they were caught red handed in the lies, as they had said, “There will be no problem.”
Carey: The documents were astounding in that case, as well. They did! They laid out how many damage claims they projected would occur because of their new system. They talked about that, and they talked in certain parts of these internal records about how that could be a benefit for them because many farmers might try to protect themselves from damage by buying Monsanto's seeds. If you were a soybean farmer and you didn't necessarily need, or want, genetically modified Dicamba tolerant soybeans, but you were afraid that your neighbor was going to plant them and spray Dicamba, and you were afraid that Dicamba was going to come over and damage your crop, you were going to buy Monsanto seeds just to protect yourself. Monsanto saw that as a sales opportunity. They saw the threat of damage that their herbicide would do as a motivation to get farmers to buy their seeds.
Jeffrey: They had experience with creating that kind of forced marketing pressure on farmers, because they had sued hundreds and hundreds of farmers who allegedly saved seeds illegally. Now, many of these farmers never purchased Monsanto seed, never sprayed Roundup, but they were being attacked by this multibillion dollar organization, claiming that the farmers had bought Monsanto seeds and illegally saved them for planting the next year, when you buy a Roundup ready seed, you sign a contract that you're not going to save it and plant it the next year. And so many farmers admitted that they planted Roundup ready seeds of soy beans, even though they didn't want to, but they felt they had to and sign the paperwork so that they would prevent Monsanto from going after them. Because some of these people who didn't plant GMO seeds were still attacked and sued, so they figured, okay, we'll just have to fall in line behind Monsanto. So they're used to this kind of pressure. Similarly, they've smuggled illegal seeds into countries like Argentina and Paraguay and distributed them to all these farmers so that it was difficult for the government to enforce the law because, if they were to enforce the law, they would have to destroy the crops and livelihood of all these farmers that had gotten it on the sly from Monsanto.
Carey: You know the history, don’t you, Jeff? Have you written a book or two?
Jeffrey: It goes back to PCBs. PCBs was one of Monsanto's flagship poisons that they knew would cause tremendous damage in Anniston, Alabama, where they were creating it, and all over the world. One report came back that said the response from Monsanto was that they couldn’t afford to lose $1 of business, even though they knew the impact. When a consultant who was hired to see what the impact was put a fish in the stream near the factory, within 60 seconds, that fish had floated to the surface, shed its skin, and started spurting blood. All these people in the town were having horrible sicknesses and yet they hid that evidence. Now PCBs was in the news today, too. Wasn't it?
Carey: PCB’s was part of the settlement announcement that Bayer made today as well, yes. They said that they were going to pay out another $600 to $700 million to settle a PCB contamination of waterways litigation that is pending in different areas and to settle with different attorneys generals in several States. So, they're really trying to wrap up a lot of Monsanto messes with the situation now. Hanging out there now is still the possibility and the potential for future Roundup litigation. They did put in place something today, or they're trying to put in place something today that would really kind of keep a tight reign on that. If people are going to try to come forward and sue, people who haven't already filed a lawsuit, they're trying to get a class action suit put together out in federal court in San Francisco. That would really take a tight hold on this sort of thing that would not allow any jury trial, but would actually put forward to a special science panel to decide the question, “Does this cause cancer?” So that's an interesting development that we need to watch. You know, how people in the future might want to bring claims.
Jeffrey: They want this to be set up so that if the independent science panel says that it doesn't cause non Hodgkin's lymphoma, that no one can sue. You do sue if they do say that it can cause non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and that no punitive damages will be awarded. The punitive damages are the lion's share of the awards — the $2 billion in the case of the Pilliod’s, and $250 million in the case of Lee Johnson. That's when the juries are told by the judge that this is not to compensate the person for their losses. It's to create a punishing blow of the company that has acted maliciously or deceptively. That's when the jury really got active in raising the numbers, so this would be a motivation for everyone who's outstanding. There are some attorneys that did not accept this settlement because they're holding out on behalf of their plaintiffs. If this other contingent moves forward, will have a chance to put their plaintiffs into the settlement?
Carey: Well, the way it's been explained to me is that lawyers who have not settled and still have their claims, could continue to go forward in the state courts justice plan. There are several that are pending in Missouri State courts, so they would continue to go through Missouri and other cases would continue at the state level. The class action would be for people who, as of today, have been exposed to Monsanto's Roundup or other glyphosate based herbicides, but have not yet filed a claim.
Jeffrey: I get that now. Alright, I just want to say that you have written an article about all three settlements that happened today — the Roundup litigation on non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, the Dicamba, and the PCBs. We've posted the link on our site and on our announcement here. It goes to the website of your organization. Can you tell us about your organization, which has been doing a fantastic job exposing the truth under your amazing writing and the leaderships of your organization? Go ahead.
Carey: Well, thank you. Thanks, Jeff. We're a very small nonprofit called, US Right to Know. I left Reuters at the end of 2015 and joined US Right to Know. Basically what we're trying to do is just put together the actual documents and links to these documents on our webpage and do it for free so that people don't have to pay the court costs that we do to get these thousands of pages of internal documents. They can read them for themselves. We put together analysis and fact sheets and a whole array of information for consumers or other reporters, lawyers or anyone who really wants to dive into this in one easy place. So, US Right to Know @usrtk.org. You can follow our trial tracker where I write about all this on a fairly regular basis.
Jeffrey: It's an excellent resource for the investigation of Monsanto and I'm so grateful, by the way. I don't know if you know this but years ago, I was the only one writing about the health dangers of GMOs and Roundup, and it was exhausting and pressurized and crazy. Now all I do is interview people who are like you, so I don't have to write so much.
Carey: I feel the same way. I was kind of a lone voice when I met you 20 years ago. I was a lone voice in the wilderness too, for a while. Other than you, I suppose, but not anymore.
Jeffrey: No, there's plenty of people and there's money now. So we have the attorneys and I have to say, I've been very impressed with the attorneys. You know, we both know many of them, you know far more, but Brent Wisner and I were on the doctors TV show, and I looked at this guy who I was sitting next to, what a firebrand! He wasn't taking anything from the doctors interviewers or the epidemiologist that came in by Skype, live for 2 to 3 million people in the national TV show. He was amazing and he was even more fired up during the trials. We have a whole three hours of interviews with him at the Institute for Responsible Technology. You can go over to the homepage and watch five part or six part interviews. He's got some amazing stories.
Okay, we're going to wrap this up.
Let me just see if there's any questions or comments that we want to respond to in the closing minute here. It looks like I'm having trouble getting to that. Let's just try one more time. Well, let's just assume that I'm not going to get to it in time. Okay. All right. It's just loading the page and
I want to thank you, Carey. There hasn't been anyone who's been so consistent and professional at doing the investigation, of doing the reporting on Roundup and these trials. Your stuff has been placed in all sorts of magazines, et cetera. So thank you for taking that role and for being a guide for all of us.
Carey: I appreciate it.
Jeffrey: So, that's it today! This breaking news of over $10 billion for the non Hodgkin's lymphoma, another $400 million for Dicamba, $600 or $700 million for old news PCBs. Now, you get to know Carey Gillam and her work. We'll have you on, over and over again. Anytime you want to come and share some of your breaking news, please do.
Carey: Great! Thanks.
Jeffrey: All right. Safe eating, everyone. Bye-bye.
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