Concerns are being raised about German drug and crop chemical maker Bayer $66 billion takeover of U.S. seed giant Monsanto. The proposed merger will likely face an intense and lengthy regulatory process in the United States, Canada, Brazil, the European Union and elsewhere. If the deal closes, it will create a company commanding more than a quarter of the combined world market for seeds and pesticides.
“This new mega corporation would be the world’s biggest seed maker and pesticide company, defying important antitrust protections and giving it unacceptable control over critical aspects of our food supply—undermining consumer choice and the freedom and stability of farmers worldwide,” said Anne Isakowitsch, head of international corporate watchdog SumOfUs.
A legal opinion by two former Justice Department officials released in August decried the merger as “a five-alarm threat to our food supply and to farmers around the world.” “Antitrust enforcers must not allow this merger to proceed,” the officials said
Competition authorities are likely to scrutinize the tie-up closely, and some of Bayer’s own shareholders have been highly critical of a takeover that they say risks overpaying and neglecting the company’s pharmaceutical business.
The transaction includes a $2-billion break-up fee that Bayer will pay to Monsanto should it fail to get regulatory clearance. Bayer expects the deal to close by the end of 2017.
Concerns from Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley, the Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, were expressed this week in Washington. “I’m afraid this consolidation wave has become a tsunami,” Grassley said
The Iowa senator said antitrust regulators should closely watch consolidation of the agricultural biotech industry and coordinate oversight between agencies. He said the Federal Trade Commission is currently reviewing another merger between Syngenta AG and the China National Chemical Corp. and the Justice Department is looking at the merger of Dow Chemical and DuPont. “When does the size of companies and concentration in the market reach the tipping point, so much that a market becomes anti-competitive?” he wondered.
Defending these mergers Republican Sens. Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Orrin Hatch of Utah absurdly blamed government regulations as one reason for the mergers. “No one this side of the dais should be surprised that they have to go through this to survive,” Tillis said.
Roger Johnson, head of the National Farmers Union, said that the mergers would mean that three companies would have more than 80 percent of U.S. corn seed sales and 70 percent of the global pesticide market. “These mergers will result in fewer choices for farmers, higher prices, and less innovation,” he said.
Bernstein Research analysts reported they saw only a 50 percent chance of the deal winning regulatory clearance. “We believe political push-back to this deal, ranging from farmer dissatisfaction with all their suppliers consolidating in the face of low farm net incomes to dissatisfaction with Monsanto leaving the United States, could provide significant delays and complications,” they wrote in a research note.
Bayer is linked to the notorious German company IG Farben which held a near total monopoly on chemical production during the National Socialist (Nazi) regime, including manufacturing Zyklon B poison for the gas chambers. IG Farben was a conglomerate of eight leading German chemical manufacturers, including Bayer, Hoechst and BASF. It was the single largest donor to the election campaign of Adolph Hitler.
After the war the Nuremberg Tribunal dissolved IG Farben into Bayer, Hoechst, and BASF. Almost three decades after the Second World War, Bayer was among those three companies that filled its highest position, chairman of the board, with former members of the Nazi party. Curt Hansen, chairman of the board of Bayer until the late 70’s, was co-organizer of the conquest of Europe in the department of “acquisition of raw materials.”
German chemist Fritz ter Meer, a member of IG Farben’s board, was involved in the planning of Monowitz concentration camp, an Auschwitz satellite camp. He was sentenced to seven years in prison in the Nuremberg Trials in 1948. After he was released in 1951 he became supervisory board chairman at Bayer.
A former Bayer researcher, Hans Kühne was an enthusiastic supporter of the Nazi regime from the moment it took office. As manager of IG Farben’s Leverkusen plant he immediately took up the suggestion that the traditional May Day holiday should instead be celebrated as a new Nazi holiday for industrial excellence.
Bayer chemist Wilhelm Rudolf Mann once wrote a letter 75 of IG Farben’s leading international sales representatives across the world, telling them that the Nazis had “won a victory against Bolshevism, the enemy of the entire world” and instructed them to tell their clients in their host countries that stories circulating about Nazi repression contained “not a true word.” It was Mann who personally agreed that IG Farben would finance the research work of Nazi butcher Josef Mengele at Auschwitz. After the war he returned to his earlier role of head of pharmaceutical sales at Bayer.