Even though New York has moved to divest more than $100 million in pension funds from Unilever, additional sanctions against Ben & Jerry’s woke parent company are still in the works. Rep. Ritchie Torres, the democratic Bronx congressman, has stepped up to the plate and has spearheaded the latest effort in New York to bring the recalcitrant company to heel.
The congressman has asked the Securities and Exchange Commission to demand that Unilever amend its regulatory filings to reflect the manifold potential new risks caused by the political statement made in July by Ben & Jerry’s. This was when the ice cream company announced it would no longer allow its ice cream to be available in parts of Israel in a blatant attempt to politicize ice cream over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“We believe it is inconsistent with our values for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to be sold in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT),” the company stated.
Torres, a long-time level-headed advocate of Jewish concerns, has banded together with others who believe Ben & Jerry’s actions are a cause for concern for shareholders, given the potential regulatory implications of Ben & Jerry’s decision. As such, the group feels Unilever should amend its regulatory filing to reflect the risks to the ice cream brand’s shareholders following the poor July decision.
“Unilever is a widely held company with a current market capitalization of $135 billion, which places in jeopardy the manifold United States institutions, pension funds, and endowments which hold its shares on behalf of its beneficiaries,” reads the letter spearheaded by Torres.
The letter was sent to SEC Chairman Gary Gensler on Friday, November 26. It was supported by a bipartisan group of colleagues, including Reps. Josh Gottheimer (D-New Jersey), Andrew Garbarino (R-Long Island), and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pennsylvania).
The group stressed that the company’s pullout requires Unilever to amend its regulatory filings. The filings would need to disclose the “material risk factors” resulting from the measures taken by the five states, which have divested from Unilever so far and the anti-Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions laws in 30 other states, including New York.
“In the interests of shareholders, consumers, and public policy, we believe it is appropriate for the SEC to take steps to ensure the full disclosure of all information necessary to make Unilever’s filings in compliance with the rules and regulations of the United States’ SEC,” the letter reads. “Unilever is a widely held company with a current market capitalization of $135 billion, which places in jeopardy the manifold United States institutions, pension funds, and endowments which hold its shares on behalf of its beneficiaries.”
The powerful letter argues that Ben & Jerry’s decision could impact shareholders negatively due to state divestment from the company, boycotts by consumers, and food store chains of Unilever products, not to mention the costs incurred from potential state and federal investigations.
A further risk factor brought out in the letter is the independent decision-making authority of Ben & Jerry’s board of directors. This was especially evident as Unilever’s alleged response was that though Ben & Jerry’s is owned by Unilever, the ice cream maker’s independent board can make its own management decisions relating to its “social mission”.
NYS Assemblyman Daniel Rosenthal, who represents the Jewish area of Kew Gardens Hills, applauded Congressman Torres for his bold move.
“Recent actions taken by Ben & Jerry’s and Unilever expose a normalization of antisemitism in our society,” Rosenthal said in a statement to Yid Info. “Rep. Torres is right to demand an investigation into whether Unilever allowed Ben & Jerry’s to put its political beliefs before its obligations to shareholders and public pension funds. I applaud his leadership in calling for accountability and transparency in this matter.”