© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Bayer’s Roundup weed killer atomizers are displayed for sale at a garden shop near Brussels

FRANKFURT (Reuters) – Bayer (DE:) said on Saturday it did not accept “unethical behavior” following a French investigation into a suspected file assembled by the German company’s seed making unit Monsanto (NYSE:) to influence various personalities in France.

The French prosecutor said on Friday it had opened the probe after a complaint was filed by daily newspaper Le Monde.

According to the newspaper and other French media, Monsanto built up a file of some 200 names that includes journalists and lawmakers in the hope of influencing their positions on pesticides.

The file, Le Monde reported, dates from 2016 and was leaked by U.S public relations and marketing agency FleishmanHillard.

In an emailed statement, Bayer declined to comment on the investigation, saying it did not know which documents the allegations referred to.

“We stand for openness and a fair treatment of all interest groups. We do not accept any unethical behavior in our company,” it said. “That applies obviously for the data privacy regulations in the respective countries as well.”

FleishmanHillard said on Friday it would investigate the allegations in Le Monde. The company will “examine the questions raised by certain media outlets about the lists of stakeholders that included publicly available information,” it said in a statement.

Bayer, which acquired Monsanto in a $63 billion deal last year, faces mounting litigations over its weedkiller Roundup, a systemic, broad-spectrum glyphosate-based herbicide.

A U.S. jury in August 2018 found the company liable because Monsanto had not warned users of alleged cancer risks linked to Roundup.

Bayer suffered a similar defeat over the weedkiller last month, while more than 13,000 plaintiffs are claiming damages. The company said last month it intended to defend itself in all lawsuits.

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2019-05-11