Bayer AG in Wuppertal, Germany. Picture: REUTERS
Bayer AG in Wuppertal, Germany. Picture: REUTERS

Berlin — Bayer on Tuesday hired law firm Sidley Austin to investigate a Europe-wide data collection scheme run by its Monsanto unit, which targeted journalists, politicians and other stakeholders to influence the debate on pesticides.

Last week, Bayer admitted that Monsanto, which it acquired for $63bn in 2018, had gathered nonpublic information as part of the campaign, which French media said sought to influence the public debate on pesticides and genetically modified products.

Bayer faces potentially heavy litigation costs from US lawsuits in which plaintiffs claim that its Roundup weedkiller, which contains glyphosate, causes cancer. Bayer disputes this.

In a Q&A document posted on its website on Tuesday, Bayer said US public relations and marketing agency FleishmanHillard, on behalf of Monsanto, had mapped stakeholders in France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain and the UK as well as stakeholders related to EU institutions.

Sidley Austin will investigate how many stakeholders were included in those files and whether people from other countries could also be affected, Bayer said.

The law firm will then contact affected people, most of them journalists, politicians and scientists, no later than by the end of the coming week.

French prosecutors said they had opened an inquiry after newspaper Le Monde filed a complaint alleging that Monsanto had kept a file of 200 names in hopes of influencing their positions.

Bayer has ended its PR collaboration with FleishmanHillard, but continues to work with the firm on marketing projects.

Bayer shares have shed more than 40% since a first adverse US judgment on Roundup last August, leaving the company with a market capitalisation smaller than the price it paid for Monsanto. 

Reuters