After Bayer took over Monsanto last year, it has been battered with a wave of lawsuits over the flagship herbicide Roundup

Frankfurt am Main (AFP) - Kenneth Feinberg, the court-appointed mediator between chemical and pharma giant Bayer and thousands of plaintiffs claiming the herbicide glyphosate gave them cancer, on Friday denied reports the company had made an $8 billion settlement offer.

“Bayer has not suggested that it should pay $8 billion to settle all US Roundup cancer cases,” Feinberg told German business newspaper Handelsblatt.

“Such a claim is a total fiction.”

Roundup is the flagship weedkilling product of Monsanto, the American seeds and pesticides maker that Bayer bought last year in a mammoth $63 billion deal.

Since the takeover, some 18,000 people have brought legal actions against the combined firm, saying their use of the Monsanto product caused various kinds of cancer.

Analysts have warned that court-ordered individual payouts or a mass settlement in the glyphosate cases could cost upwards of 10 billion euros ($11.2 billion).

Bloomberg News had reported rumours of a settlement earlier Friday, sending Bayer’s stock price soaring as investors saw hope the company could free itself of the legal millstone.

The shares fell back to 64.48 euros by just after 3:30 pm in Frankfurt (1330 GMT), but remained up 2.4 percent on the day and topped the blue-chip DAX index.

- ‘Compensation not even discussed’ -

Veteran mediator Kenneth Feinberg has said that compensation has not been discussed between Bayer and thousands of plaintiffs

Feinberg is a veteran mediator who has worked on cases from the harm caused by defoliant Agent Orange – also manufactured by Monsanto – during the Vietnam War to Volkswagen’s emissions cheating scandal.

He told Handelsblatt that “compensation has not yet even been discussed in the global mediation talks”, which are set to last until September at the order of a California judge.

A Bayer spokesman told AFP earlier the group “does not comment on rumours”, referring back to its second-quarter earnings statement, which vowed both energetic defences in lawsuits and engagement in the court-ordered mediation process.

“We believe that we will ultimately prevail in this litigation on the strength of sound science,” chief executive Werner Baumann told investors in a July 30 telephone conference.

Juries in several lower courts granted plaintiffs massive damages awards over Roundup, although they were later reduced by judges and Bayer vowed to appeal – saying the weight of scientific evidence is against glyphosate causing cancer when used appropriately.

Plaintiffs’ lawyers have often based their arguments on a 2015 finding by World Health Organization arm IARC that classed glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic”.

But this was a finding in absolute terms, rather than one related to typical levels of exposure.

Bayer points to long-term studies of thousands of glyphosate users which it says show no increased cancer risk.