Update: This article tells you the latest and most shocking!! It’s fabulous news!
I am live streaming Bayer’s Annual Shareholder Meeting in the wee hours of the morning. I put the meeting on one part of my computer screen, and Twitter-fed videos of hundreds of protesters standing outside of the meeting on the other.
One group of protesters chants: “Shame on you” over and over, as investors crowd into the Bonn conference center. There appear to be many young people with signs, and reportedly, placards mocking Bayer’s corporate motto “science for a better life.” I wish I could be there.
The viewers of the live stream are first treated to a pre-edited collection of happy images of Bayer shareholders wandering the building, accompanied by cheery, energizing music. I am immediately reminded of the Sabre Training Video from The Office. A polished Bayer woman with a fake smile checks in a shareholder and hands her a packet of information for the meeting.
In a drastic change of tone, the scene turns austere. The video cuts to CEO Werner Baumann and Supervisory Board Chairman Werner Wenning vigorously and forcefully shaking hands on stage for photos. I sense anxiety.
Wenning takes the stage, and an English translator gets to work performing live, impressively monotone translations of German. At the sound of these combined voices, my dogs awaken and run to the door barking.
Wenning quickly admits that Bayer has been: “hit quite hard by the ongoing lawsuits” with regards to glyphosate in America. He acknowledges the questions that shareholders have recently been asking regarding whether the legal risks of Monsanto and glyphosate had “been assessed properly in the acquisition.” He assures shareholders that they were thorough in their assessment.
Baumann takes the stage next, claiming that he is “delighted so many of you have turned out today.” I’m sure he is. He quickly acknowledges that it has been a difficult year and the that the lawsuit verdicts are worrying.
As he winds through a variety of Bayer topics, the predictable party lines are repeated: glyphosate is a safe product, helps to combat hunger and is in line with the sustainable agriculture goals of the UN (!!!)
I note a very slight hedge when Baumann explains that they thoroughly looked through the materials that Monsanto supplied them when considering the acquisition. He is not saying that he saw any of the incriminating internal “Monsanto Papers” emails, which potentially could help Bayer legally down the road to prove that they were had by Monsanto.
- All of those tasked with the due diligence for the acquisition considered the risk to be low. The positive regulatory assessments on glyphosate corroborated this belief.
- Bayer executives were “convinced at the time and again today that glyphosate is a safe product when used as directed. That view is based on science.” Baumann continues that regulatory authorities carry out product testing, constantly inspecting and analyzing products for safety. We well know here on GG that they most certainly DO NOT perform reliable inspections or analyses of glyphosate for safety.
- In January 2019, Health Canada performed an extensive safety review of glyphosate. Guess what? They found it to be non-carcinogenic.
In a shout out to the Plaintiff attorney teams, Baumann speaks with feigned sadness that their accusations are deeply upsetting for his colleagues. “They are mothers, fathers, people committed to helping our society.” This brings to mind the committed Donna Farmer, telling a young family friend that it is fine to strap on a Roundup backpack and spray without protection. I wonder if she would strap on that Roundup backpack.
Baumann segues into a story about travelling with a new colleague in the US who had sold glyphosate to farms for over 35 years. Apparently, he had become such close friends with the farmers that he even went to some family weddings. Baumann retells that this sales rep is quite distraught that people could believe that he would knowingly expose his friends to cancer. “What kind of people do they think we are?”
The story is interesting, because there is certainly a good chance that this salesperson is a true believer in both his long-time employer and glyphosate. Such a person can’t conceive that Monsanto would lie to him about glyphosate’s carcinogenicity. Because it would be abhorrent to do so.
Oh, and did you know that there is “tremendous importance” for glyphosate use in sustainable agriculture and in providing food to a growing population? This moment feels very similar to that of the Vietnam war quote: “We had to destroy the village in order to save it.” Or in this case, “We had to poison the people in order to feed them.”
The rest of the talk provides nothing particularly new, just the reinforcement of status quo:
- The regulatory authorities and their in-house assessments of glyphosate carcinogenicity differed from the verdicts. But “However exaggerated it may be, the unsettling effect is understandable.”
- There is no single final judgement and both Johnson and Hardeman will be appealed. Baumann remains optimistic that the higher courts will reach different verdicts: “We are working relentlessly to successfully defend ourselves.” The attorneys do indeed look tired.
- He calls for decisions based on INDEPENDENT authorities instead of emotions. He feels sorry for the regulatory authorities because these emotions harm their credibility. The only authority that based their evaluation on independent, peer-reviewed science is IARC!
Oh, and Bayer is proudly committed to acting with full transparency – and get this:
The live stream is cutoff as not to broadcast the complaints and concerns of the shareholder attendees.
Update on Shareholder Vote
FRANKFURT (Reuters) – Bayer shareholders on Friday cast a vote of disapproval of the German drugmaker’s top management amid anger over a stock price slump as litigation risks mount from the $63 billion takeover of seed maker Monsanto.
A Bayer spokesman said a majority of shareholders at its annual general meeting voted against ratifying the board’s business conduct during 2018.
Such a vote features prominently at every German AGM. It is largely symbolic because it has no bearing on management’s liability or tenure but it is seen as a key gauge of investor sentiment.
Bayer’s non-executive supervisory board, in turn, won a majority of the votes ratifying its business conduct during 2018, the spokesman said.
The Wall Street Journal: Bayer CEO Faces Shareholder Ire over Monsanto Deal
Back again soon with the trial continuation!