Unilever wins pension fund case over Ben and Jerry’s ‘Palestinian Territory’ boycott

Federal court rules parent company was not required to forewarn investors of plans to ban ice cream sales in Israeli settlements, which plunged share value

Ben & Jerry's ice cream on sale at a shop in Jerusalem, on July 19, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Ben & Jerry's ice cream on sale at a shop in Jerusalem, on July 19, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

JTA — A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit against the multinational food company Unilever tied to Ben and Jerry’s 2021 announcement that it would stop selling ice cream in what it called “Occupied Palestinian Territory.”

Unilever is the ice cream maker’s parent company. The lawsuit, which was thrown out on Tuesday, claimed Unilever misled American investors by not immediately sharing the news of the boycott with them.

The boycott, which sparked discussion across the Jewish world, is not in force: In December 2022, following a separate, lengthy legal battle, Ben & Jerry’s independent board reached a settlement with Unilever that ensured the ice cream would continue to be sold across Israel and the West Bank.

The suit that was dismissed Tuesday in a New York City federal courtroom was brought last year by a police and fire pension fund in St. Clair Shores, a suburb of Detroit. The plaintiffs sought damages from the company due to to a drop in Unilever stock price after the boycott announcement in July 2021.

“We believe it is inconsistent with our values for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to be sold in the Occupied Palestinian Territory,” Ben & Jerry’s had said in a statement announcing the boycott. “We also hear and recognize the concerns shared with us by our fans and trusted partners.”

Following the announcement, multiple state pension funds divested their funds from Unilever or otherwise decreased their business with the company or with Ben & Jerry’s. The lawsuit sought damages for people whose shares in the company fell after those divestments, and after some Jewish and pro-Israel groups accused Ben & Jerry’s of antisemitism.

The plaintiffs alleged that Unilever should have alerted its shareholders that Ben & Jerry’s was set to make a decision that could cause a drop in the company’s value. But US District Judge Lorna Schofield ruled that Unilever was not required to disclose the boycott when Ben & Jerry’s decided on it in July 2020, because Unilever retained operational control over whether to institute the boycott, which it did not do.

read more:
Never miss breaking news on Israel
Get notifications to stay updated
You're subscribed
Register for free
and continue reading
Registering also lets you comment on articles and helps us improve your experience. It takes just a few seconds.
Already registered? Enter your email to sign in.
Please use the following structure:
Or Continue with
By registering you agree to the terms and conditions. Once registered, you’ll receive our Daily Edition email for free.
Register to continue
Or Continue with
Log in to continue
Sign in or Register
Or Continue with
check your email
Check your email
We sent an email to you at .
It has a link that will sign you in.