Four members of the House of Representatives asked the Securities and Exchange Commission to examine Ben & Jerry’s halt on ice cream sales in certain parts of Israel.
As The Daily Wire reported earlier this year, Ben & Jerry’s — which often endorses left-leaning policies — decided to stop selling its products in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. The company, wholly owned by Unilever yet retaining its own Board of Directors, said that it is “inconsistent with our values” to sell in “Occupied Palestinian Territory.”
The letter to SEC chairman Gary Gensler — signed by Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-NY), Rep. Andrew Garbarino (R-NY), Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), and Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) — argued that the company’s policy is inconsistent with many state laws:
We have been informed that, Ben & Jerry’s has halted the sale of its products in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. We also understand that the actions by Ben & Jerry’s disregards numerous United States’ state laws, which requires a state to divest from companies that participate in such boycotts. To date, Arizona, Florida, New Jersey, New York, and Texas have taken steps to divest of Unilever’s common shares. Additionally, 30 other states have enacted “anti-BDS” laws, all of which may consider divestiture in response to public appeal.
The lawmakers also noted that Unilever’s federal filings neglected to acknowledge the business risks of divesting from certain parts of Israel:
It is also our understanding that Unilever may have violated Rule 10b-5 of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 relating to material omissions in the 6-K. Given the potential negative impact of such material omissions, which is why we believe the SEC should ask Unilever to revise the “Principal Risk Factors” section of their 6-K to fully and accurately disclose the potential material adverse consequences to the company based by the claimed independence of the Ben & Jerry’s Board of Directors, and the specific potential effects of the Ben & Jerry’s boycott.
We have also been informed that the 6-K filed by Unilever fails to include specific language that details the potential adverse consequences to Unilever created by the Ben & Jerry’s boycott in its “Principal Risk Factors” section.
Indeed, New York’s Common Retirement Fund announced in October that it would jettison its $111 million in Unilever holdings.
“After a thorough review, the New York State Common Retirement Fund will divest its equity holdings in Unilever PLC,” said New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, a Democrat. “Our review of the activities of the company, and its subsidiary Ben & Jerry’s, found they engaged in BDS activities under our pension fund’s policy.”
In August, franchise owners also asked Ben & Jerry’s to rescind the boycott.
“There is a danger that the pursuit of social justice will descend into political correctness or result in the adoption of overly simplistic solutions by people who share a single view of the world that misconstrue complex problems in which multiple claims of justice are implicated,” the letter stated. “The imposition of such narrow prescriptions does not advance social justice or the pursuit of a values-led business in any meaningful way.”