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Florida GOP Governor Ron DeSantis has issued a warning to Ben & Jerry’s parent company, Unilever, that they have 90 days to reverse the company’s boycott targeting Israel or else face harsh consequences, including Florida barring state pension funds holding investments in Unilever.
The state board of administration of Florida, which is comprised of DeSantis, state Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, and Attorney General Ashley Moody, issued a letter that detailed the steps the state would take to punish Unilever for its decision to boycott the Biblical areas of Judea and Samaria in Israel.
DeSantis stated, “By placing Ben & Jerry’s Fortune 500 parent company Unilever on our List of Scrutinized Companies that Boycott Israel, Florida is sending a message to corporate America that we will defend our strong relationship with the Jewish State. I will not stand idly by as woke corporate ideologues seek to boycott and divest from our ally, Israel,” as the Orlando Weekly reported.
Ash Williams, Executive Director & Chief Investment Officer of the state board of administration of Florida, wrote in the letter that the board had received a July 22 letter from DeSantis that noted that Unilever’s decision was “an action that falls under Section 215.4725(1)(a), Florida Statutes (the ‘Statute’), ‘Prohibited investments by the State Board of Administration; companies that boycott Israel.’”
Williams continued, “The Statute defines a ‘boycott of Israel’ as refusing to deal, terminating business activities, or taking other actions to limit commercial relations with Israel, or persons or entities doing business in Israel or in Israeli-controlled territories, in a discriminatory manner.”
Upon Ben & Jerry’s announcement and consistent with statute, we contacted Unilever directly to request an engagement on behalf of the SBA and to make clear that Unilever as owner of Ben & Jerry’s would be affected by Florida law. We indicated that, pursuant to the Statute, the SBA would be prohibited from further investment in Unilever and affiliated companies if they were placed on the Scrutinized Companies that Boycott Israel List. … The SBA conducted an engagement call with Unilever Investor Relations on July 28, 2021 and received indication that the parent company has no current plan to prevent Ben & Jerry’s from terminating business activities in Israeli-controlled territories.
He concluded, “As a result, Unilever PLC has been added to the ‘Scrutinized Companies that Boycott Israel’ list as of July 29, 2021. As directed by statute, we will send Unilever a written notice informing the company of its scrutinized company status and clarification that it may become subject to investment prohibition if the company does not cease a boycott of Israel within 90 days of being placed on the list.”
“Ben & Jerry’s said on its website that it has a licensee that manufactures ice cream in Israel and distributes it in the region. The company said it will not renew the license when it expires at the end of 2022 but will remain in Israel through a ‘different business arrangement,’” the Tampa Bay Times noted.