A bipartisan group of U.S. Congressmen has asked the Securities and Exchange Commission to require that Unilever – the parent company of Ben & Jerry’s – update its corporate regulatory filings in light of its decision to boycott Israel. In response to the boycott, a number of U.S. States have divested their state funds of Unsilver stock.
In July, Ben & Jerry’s announced a new policy regarding the sale of their products in Israel. The company said that it had told its local Israeli franchisee that they would no longer allow their products to be sold in what Ben & Jerry’s describes as “occupied Palestinian territory.” Basically, this refers to any town or area in what the world calls the West Bank.
Since the Israeli company refused to implement the ban, Ben & Jerry’s parent company Unilever said that it would not renew its contract when it ends.
Now the group, which is led by Bronx Democrat Rep. Ritchie Torres, asserts that the continued divestments from Unilever will affect the company’s value enough that it should be required to inform all stockholders of the threat posed to the value of the shares that they hold.
The letter sent to the head of the SEC said that, “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.”
“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 letter added. “We believe that these actions require the SEC to request that the regulatory filings of Unilever be amended to disclose the material risk factors.”
A few weeks ago New York’s state pension fund on announced that it would divest its holdings in Unilever Plc, $111 million, the parent company of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. The move came in response to Unilever’s joining the boycott movement against Israel.
The state of New Jersey has also moved to divest itself of its $50 million invested in the company.