A Michigan police and firefighter’s union pension fund is suing Ben & Jerry’s owner Unilever over the ice cream brand’s anti-Israel attacks, accusing the parent company of concealing Ben & Jerry’s actions from shareholders and causing severe financial loss.
The saga began last year when the extremist, left-wing Ben & Jerry’s board issued a boycott of Israel that they claimed wasn’t a boycott of Israel with the announcement that it would stop selling its products in “occupied Palestinian territories” controlled by Israel, according to The Times of Israel.
Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield sold their ice cream business to food giant Unilever in the year 2000, but negotiated a separate, autonomous board for the ice cream branch, so the company could continue to push the hardcore, left-wing social agenda that Ben and Jerry wanted to use their company to promulgate when they originally founded Ben & Jerry’s. It was this board that decided to boycott Israel.
“We believe it is inconsistent with our values for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to be sold in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). We also hear and recognize the concerns shared with us by our fans and trusted partners,” the company’s July 2021 statement read in part.
— Ben & Jerry’s (@benandjerrys) July 19, 2021
Never mind that there has never been any such thing — and there is not now — as the country or state called Palestine. The areas that make up the Palestinian Authority today were part of Jordan before Israel won the region in the 1967 Six-Day War. And before that it was a sector of the Ottoman Empire. It was never an autonomous country or people, neither in recent nor ancient history.
Factual history aside, Ben & Jerry’s is a company motivated by extreme leftism and has a history of making similar statements. But this particular bout of leftism cost Unilever a pretty penny in the months following the release of the boycott announcement.
According to some estimates, Unilever lost about eight percent of its value during the following week as people reacted negatively to Ben & Jerry’s boycott of Israel. Eight percent may not seem like a lot, but for a company as big as Unilever, that meant its value tumbled by about $4 billion just in the week after the announcement, according to the Times. And by this year, the company was down $26 billion according to JNS.org.
All this led to the recently filed lawsuit by the pension fund of St. Clair Shores, a suburb of Detroit, according to the Times. The suit alleges that Unilever knew ahead of time that the extremists infesting the Ben & Jerry’s board were set to release their stock-killing statement and that Unilever should have warned shareholders that there was a potential problem on the rise.
Evidence seems to substantiate the lawsuit’s claim, too. As NBC News reported, Unilever intercepted the Ben & Jerry’s announcement and tried to soften it slightly by adding a line telling customers that they would continue selling ice cream within Israel’s borders.
“Although Ben & Jerry’s will no longer be sold in the OPT, we will stay in Israel through a different arrangement. We will share an update on this as soon as we’re ready,” the statement said. It was this provision which the Ben & Jerry’s board did not approve. But clearly Unilever knew the announcement was coming, otherwise they would not have had time to add the line before its release.
Indeed, in the weeks after the boycott announcement, the Ben & Jerry’s board threatened to take legal action against Unilever for the addition to the statement, which the board claimed violated the 2000 purchase agreement, The Times of Israel reported at the time.
But the reaction was far-reaching for Unilever.
The food giant faced a wave of funds disinvesting in its stock thanks to the ice cream branch’s boycott decision. For instance, state pension authorities in Arizona, New Jersey, Illinois, and New York all warned Unilever that they would disinvest in the company over the Ben & Jerry’s boycott announcement.
The ice cream brand also lost many retailers who announced that they would stop stocking the brand over the radical board’s antisemitic actions.
With all that to back its lawsuit, the St. Clair Shores pension fund says that Unilever knew it was going to face a loss of value thanks to Ben & Jerry’s highly controversial decision and that it should have taken action to protect shareholders.
The litigants asked the court to be awarded class-action status, too, so that they could go out and gather up others who feel they were negatively affected by the boycott announcement.
Certainly, the Ben & Jerry’s board is free to make any social justice decision it wants to make, no matter how radical. But it should also be prepared to suffer the consequences of its actions by losing vast amounts of money.
And the litigants of this potential class-action lawsuit have an equal right to react to Ben & Jerry’s radicalism.
The catchphrase “go woke, go broke” could not be more apt in this case. Speak out all you want, Ben & Jerry’s, but get ready when your customers dump your product.
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