April 26, 2019
By Ludwig Burger
BONN (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 and 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.
About 30 billion euros ($34 billion) have been wiped off Bayer’s market value since August, when a U.S. jury found the pesticide and drugs group liable because Monsanto had not warned of alleged cancer risks linked to its weedkiller Roundup.
Bayer suffered a similar defeat last month, while more than 13,000 plaintiffs are claiming damages.
Bayer is appealing or plans to appeal the verdicts and has pointed to global regulators’ findings that the use of glyphosate is safe.
No incumbent executive board members at companies listed in Germany’s blue-chip index DAX has flunked the vote, meaning receiving an approval vote of less than 50 percent at an AGM.
In a recent low for a company leadership team, former Deutsche Bank co-CEOs Anshu Jain and Juergen Fitschen scored approval ratings of about 61 percent during the bank’s 2015 AGM. Both announced their resignation within weeks.
Top 20 Bayer investors who earlier on Friday said they would cast a ‘no’ vote included Deka Investment and Union Investment.
This month, shareholder advisory firms Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) and Glass Lewis recommended investors not to give the executive board their seal of approval.
(Reporting by Ludwig Burger; Editing by James Dalgleish)