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DuPont Settles Lawsuits Ahead of Dow Merger

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Following all approvals, Dow and DuPont announced late last week that they plan to complete their $130 billion merger on Aug. 31. Almost simultaneously, DuPont said it would pay out nearly $400 million to settle pending lawsuits.

DuPont has called the timing of the payment a coincidence. The two US chemical giants have not yet disclosed how each company's liabilities, which include lawsuits and pension obligations, will be divided among the spinoff companies.

According to the original plans, three separate entities will be formed following the merger – one each for agrochemicals, materials and specialty chemicals. Activist investors recently suggested that assets should be split into at least six new entities. To defuse the situation, Dow and DuPont have hired McKinsey & Co. to assist in their portfolio review.

Also last week, a US federal judge approved a $50 million settlement agreed by DuPont with the state of Virginia and the federal government. This covers mercury discharges from a plant in the town of Waynesboro that contaminated more than 100 miles of water in the South River and South Fork Shenandoah River watershed.

The largest damage settlement in the state’s history involving natural resources is said to include more than $42 million for restoration projects, including fishing improvements and land protection. Among other things, DuPont has agreed to restore a fish hatchery at Front Royal, Virginia. This is estimated to cost as much as $7-8 million, including reimbursement of some government assessment expenses.

Other liabilities DuPont is disposing of include its half ($335 million) of a nearly $671 million settlement of 3,500 lawsuits agreed in February of this year, related to discharges of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA, or C8) from its former Washington Works at Parkersburg in the state of West Virginia. The chemical used to produce the group’s signature Teflon brand non-stick coating is now in the portfolio of spin-off Chemours, which is sharing the liabilities.

"Giving a disproportionate amount of environmental liabilities to the new entities could create a drain on resources, uncertainty with business partners and shareholders and additional hurdles and questions about their valuation, a law firm specializing in environmental issues commented to the website Delaware Online.