New Jersey to divest pension investments in parent company of Ben & Jerry’s Unilever following West Bank boycott
New Jersey threatened to divest pension funds invested in Ben & Jerry’s and its parent company Unilever, as the state reached a preliminary conclusion that the ice cream maker’s decision to halt sales in the West Bank and regions of East Jerusalem constitutes a boycott of Israel. .
State law prohibits New Jersey from investing or entering into contracts with companies or individuals who participate in the boycott of Israel. Earlier this month, the New Jersey investment division sent a letter to Unilever CEO Alan Jope advising the conglomerate of the review and that legal action could be taken to comply with the state law.
“When making the final decision, no pension fund assets can be invested in the company, and DOI will take appropriate steps to sell or dispose of any existing pension fund investments,” said Shoaib Khan, director of the New Division. Jersey investments.
In the letter, New Jersey set a 90-day deadline for Unilever to get Ben & Jerry’s to reverse the announcement before the state takes action to remove its pension fund assets. The state has not disclosed what percentage of its $ 92.7 billion pension fund portfolio is currently invested in Unilever.
September 15, 2021 9:17 a.m.
Ben & Jerry’s announced on July 19 that it would not renew its licensing agreement with its current Israeli partner, saying it was “inconsistent” with its values of selling products in “the occupied Palestinian territory.” The ice cream maker said it would continue to sell its products in Israel under a different arrangement.
“Today’s preliminary ruling by the New Jersey Investment Division – like those of other state governments across the country that Jewish federations work with – sends a strong message that boycotts and discrimination against the staunch ally of the United States, Israel, is unacceptable and only undermines the cause of peace, ”said Eric Fingerhut, president and CEO of the Jewish Federations of North America.
New Jersey’s move follows action this month by the state of Arizona to phase out all public funds from Unilever. This week, West Virginia state lawmaker Joshua Higginbotham wrote a letter to Governor Jim Justice requesting an investigation into whether Ben & Jerry’s “anti-Israel business decision” violates state law.
“This letter is a formal request directing your office to promptly review any contract or purchase proposal between the state of West Virginia and any entity owned by Unilever,” the letter reads. “I hope this law will apply to this immoral and discriminatory decision and that our government can take action accordingly.”