FederalIssuesTexas to Potentially Divest from Ben & Jerry’s After Israel Boycott

State government entities may be required to divest any securities of the ice cream company after it said it would stop selling its product in some parts of Israel.
July 23, 2021
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After Ben & Jerry’s released a statement that they would no longer sell their product in “the Occupied Palestinian Territory,” Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar said that his office is investigating whether the ice cream producer or its parent company, Unilever, should be included on a divestment list.

Under Chapter 808 of the state government code, the state is required to take steps to divest all publicly traded securities of a company that takes actions “intended to penalize” Israel or “with a person or entity doing business in Israel or in an Israeli-controlled territory.”

“If it is determined that Ben & Jerry’s or Unilever has engaged in any activities proscribed under Chapter 808, my office will take all appropriate and required actions,” said Hegar.

On Monday, the ice cream company stated, “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.”

Ben & Jerry’s said that they will not be renewing the license with their current business partner in the region, but that they would “stay in Israel through a different arrangement” with an update to come later.

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Unilever distanced itself from the decision of its subsidiary, saying, “We remain fully committed to our presence in Israel, where we have invested in our people, brands and business for several decades.”

“Ben & Jerry’s was acquired by Unilever in 2000. As part of the acquisition agreement, we have always recognised the right of the brand and its independent Board to take decisions about its social mission. We also welcome the fact that Ben & Jerry’s will stay in Israel.”

During a conference call with investors, Unilever CEO Alan Jope reportedly reiterated the company’s commitment to business in Israel and the acquisition agreement it made with Ben & Jerry’s.

Hegar said that his office would “carefully review statements and actions made by Ben & Jerry’s and Unilever to establish if either entity is a suitable candidate for the Texas list.”

If the comptroller finds cause to add either company to the divestment list, state governmental entities that are currently invested in them must notify Ben & Jerry’s or Unilever within 30 days.

Companies that receive notice of the pending divestment will have up to 90 days to end the boycott. If the boycott continues beyond that time, then the governmental entities must divest at least 50 percent of the assets within 180 days of the notice and 100 percent of the assets within 360 days.

A related provision of Texas law requires companies with 10 or more full-time employees that enter into contracts with government entities to provide written verification that it “does not boycott Israel” and “will not boycott Israel during the term of the contract.”

Divestment lists maintained by the comptroller show nine companies that currently boycott Israel, while a longer list of companies “engaging in scrutinized business operations in Iran” includes energy businesses and Hyundai Motor.

“Texans have made it very clear that they stand with Israel and its people. We oppose actions that could undermine Israel’s economy and its people,” said Hegar.

“I would also note that Texans have better options for a sweet treat this summer. Blue Bell was founded in Brenham, Texas, and, for my money, tastes much better than the stuck-up stuff made by a foreign-owned company started in Vermont.”

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Daniel Friend

Daniel Friend is a reporter for The Texan. He participated in a Great Books program at Azusa Pacific University and graduated in 2019 with a degree in Political Science. He has studied C.S. Lewis’s science fiction trilogy and in his spare time you might find him writing his own novel partly inspired by the series.