Monsanto has agreed to pay $80 million to the Securities and Exchange Commission in penalties over misstated earnings on Roundup, its best-selling herbicide most often used in tandem with its controversial genetically engineered crops.
According to the SEC, the St. Louis-based agrichemical company failed to “properly track millions of dollars in rebates it offered to Roundup retailers and distributors,” reports the New York Times. “The rebates were part of a promotion that Monsanto ran after sales of a generic version of the product undercut its business in 2009.”
While the rebates helped Monsanto increase its reach and sales during the three-year promotion that ran from 2009 through 2011, the company appears to have not properly recorded the profits. According to the SEC, Monsanto didn’t recognize “related costs” to the promotion, which interfered with its profit reporting.
“Corporations must be truthful in their earnings releases to investors and have sufficient internal accounting controls in place to prevent misleading statements,” Mary Jo. White, chairman of the SEC said on Tuesday.
Monsanto hasn’t admitted any wrongdoing, nor has the company denied it, reports the Times. But it has agreed to bring on a consultant to review its finances related to the company’s agricultural sector.
Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant has reportedly also reimbursed the company for more than $3 million in bonuses and stocks that were received between 2009 and 2011. “The company is pleased to put this matter behind it,” Monsanto said in a statement.
One of the largest corporate settlements in SEC history, the case doesn’t help Monsanto’s public image, one it’s aggressively trying to salvage with sustainability promises and claims that its genetically modified seeds can help to alleviate world hunger.
Monsanto has become a pariah among conscious consumers as well as food, environment, and health advocacy groups. Its genetically modified crops and the use of Roundup, have been linked to an increase in “superweeds” resistant to the glyphosate-based herbicide. And last year, the World Health Organization found glyphosate to be a “probable” carcinogen. Still, the chemical is widely used. It is now the most heavily applied herbicide in human history.
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Herbicide spraying image via Shutterstock