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Bayer acknowledges 'bumps' in $11 bln Roundup deal after judge raises doubts

Chhabria raised concerns in July over the plan to create an independent panel of scientists to assess whether glyphosate-based weedkillers such as Roundup caused cancer, delaying a key part of the proposed settlement.

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A bottle of Roundup weedkiller concentrate in a garden shed in Princeton, Ill., on March 28, 2019. Daniel Acker / Bloomberg
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Shares in German drugs company Bayer AG fell 3% on Friday after it said there were "bumps" in sealing its $11 billion settlement of U.S. lawsuits over its Roundup weed killer after a U.S. judge cast doubt on the progress of the agreement.

Bayer in June struck an agreement on about 75% of the 125,000 claims stemming from its $63 billion takeover of seed and chemical company Monsanto in 2018.

It has indicated that settling existing cases is contingent on some form of agreement on future cases, and has proposed a scientific panel to rule on any future claimants that agree to submit to the out-of court procedure.

U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria threatened to restart the litigation and let it move forward after questioning if Bayer was going back on the settlement, according to a Bloomberg News report.

"There are often some bumps in the road in implementing a resolution of this magnitude, but we remain confident that a comprehensive settlement will be finalized and executed," Bayer said in a statement.

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Its shares had dropped to 54.78 euros by 0936 GMT.

One of the leading lawyers involved in the Roundup litigation said he was prepared to bring cases to trial again.

"I agree that these Monsanto shenanigans need to stop. Either settle or don't -- at this point the only enemy is indecision," Brent Wisner told Reuters.

Chhabria told the parties to continue to finalize the settlement and to confer about next steps should the litigation resume, scheduling a Sept. 24 hearing to discuss progress, according to a source who monitored the hearing.

Bayer said it expected litigation to remain on hold at least until then.

"While we support the court’s dual track approach over the next 30 days, we are optimistic that the finalization of the settlements over this time will make any further steps on the litigation track unnecessary,” it said.

Chhabria raised concerns in July over the plan to create an independent panel of scientists to assess whether glyphosate-based weedkillers such as Roundup caused cancer, delaying a key part of the proposed settlement.

Bayer's proposal to simultaneously address any future cases, which it said it remained committed to in July, is unprecedented because glyphosate will remain on the market without a cancer warning.

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Chhabria said on Thursday he was inclined to make public several confidential letters from consumer lawyers complaining that Bayer's Monsanto unit is reneging on the deal, Bloomberg News said.

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