Ben & Jerry’s and the
Boycott Movement Against Israel
The StandWithUs Saidoff Legal Department is at the forefront of efforts to hold Ben & Jerry’s (and its parent company Unilever) legally accountable for its discriminatory decision to cut ties with its factory in Israel after 2022. StandWithUs’ legal efforts include countless meetings with top U.S. lawyers in the fields of shareholder litigation, securities litigation, and franchise law to understand potential legal avenues. StandWithUs is also working with key partner organizations on joint legal strategies. To date, several possible lawsuits are being explored, with more information to come in the months ahead.
See below for a look at our efforts including resources, media coverage, videos, and more.
COVERAGE OF STANDWITHUS ACTIONS
WATCH: Unilever is a huge multinational corporation that is enabling antisemitism.
WATCH: The woman who quit Ben & Jerry's over its Israel boycott speaks out
STATE ACTION RE UNILEVER
Official Action Taken by States in Response to Ben & Jerry’s Boycott
Colorado: On March 18, 2022, Colorado Public Employees’ Retirement Association (PERA) voted unanimously to put Unilever on notice regarding its boycott of Israel. PERA reportedly will divest its $42 million of investments in Unilever if the latter refuses to reverse its boycott within 180 days.
Maryland: On August 2, 2021, Secretary of State John Wobensmith committed to determining if Maryland had any “existing contracts” with Unilever and to “respond accordingly” if so.
New Jersey: On September 2, 2021, the Deputy Director of the New Jersey Department of the Treasury’s Division of Investment wrote to Unilever’s CEO, confirming that no pension or annuity fund under the authority of the division may invest in Unilever and that the director of the division must divest from its Unilever assets (then worth approximately $182 million).
New York: In October 2021, NY’s State Comptroller followed up on a previous letter to Unilever and announced his decision to pull Unilever investments (then worth approximately $111 million) from the NY State Common Retirement Fund.
North Carolina: On October 15, 2021, State Treasurer Dave Folwell declared that “once Ben & Jerry’s (Unilever) terminates its license with the distributor in Israel, then the Investment Management Division would review the status of the law and adjust its investments to fully comply with any statutory requirements.”
Texas: On September 23, 2021, Comptroller Glenn Hegar announced that he had added Unilever to Texas’s Divestment Statutes List. Texas state pension funds had previously invested approximately $100 million in Unilever assets.
Additional Action by Policy Makers Throughout the U.S
Bipartisan Letter to SEC by U.S. Congressmen Asking for Audit of Unilever: On November 26, 2021, Congressman Ritchie Torres sent a bipartisan letter asking for the SEC to “take steps” to ensure that Unilever amend its SEC filings to accurately reflect the “material risk factors” posed by its complicity in Ben & Jerry’s divestment decision, and to disclose “all information necessary to make Unilever’s filing in compliance with the rules and regulations of the United States’ SEC.” The letter was signed by Congressmen Josh Gottheimer, Andrew Garbarino, and Brian Fitzpatrick.
Attorneys General of Twelve States Send Joint Letter to Unilever CEO: On November 22, 2021, Missouri’s Attorney General Eric Schmitt sent a letter urging Unilever to reconsider its boycott and upkeep its “fiduciary duties required of Unilever under the laws of the United States and under the laws of the individual states represented by [the] letter.” Signatories include the attorneys general of Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Utah, Texas, and West Virginia.
Seven State Treasurers Send Joint Letter to Unilever CEO: On December 9, 2021, seven state treasurers sent a letter pointing to potential misrepresentations made by Unilever. The letter also requested Unilever to provide “full clarification and transparency regarding Unilever’s ability to override” Ben & Jerry’s boycott and why it had not yet done so. The treasurer’s letter referenced a joint letter written by StandWithUs and IAC for Action and was signed onto by the state treasurers of Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and West Virginia.
StandWithUs’s Efforts to Shift Public Opinion on Unilever
Joint Letter to Unilever’s CEO: On October 15, 2021, StandWithUs and IAC for Action sent a joint letter to Unilever’s CEO explaining Unilever’s complicity in Ben & Jerry’s boycott of Israel, and asking for the former to use its expressed authority to override the boycott of its subsidiary. The letter is later referenced in a letter jointly sent to Unilever’s CEO by seven state treasurers.
Joint Outreach to Unilever Shareholders: On December 06, 2021, StandWithUs and IAC for Action jointly contacted hundreds of Unilever shareholders seeking to raise their awareness of the financial exposure suffered by Unilever as a result of its corporate leadership disregarding its fiduciary duties and refusing to use its authority to override Ben & Jerry’s boycott of Israel.
WATCH: StandWithUs Israel Executive Director Michael Dickson on Ben and Jerry’s – ILTV.
SOCIAL MEDIA COVERAGE
WATCH: New Jersey moves to divest from Unilever.