Unilever wins Ben & Jerry’s BDS lawsuit

A Federal Judge in Manhattan dismissed a pension fund’s lawsuit against Unilever, which charged that the company had intentionally misled investors regarding the Ben & Jerry’s BDS decision and subsequent financial damage.

By Adina Katz, World Israel News

Global food conglomerate Unilever scored a victory in a New York court on Tuesday, after a judge dismissed a lawsuit against the industry titan charging that they had misled investors by not disclosing a boycott endorsed by Ben & Jerry’s, their subsidiary.

The left-wing ice cream brand announced in July 2021 that it would bar the sales of its branded products in Judea and Samaria and eastern Jerusalem, a major win for the BDS movement.

The move sparked backlash from both Israeli and American government officials, along with many of Unilever’s investors.

Numerous U.S. states with employee pension funds invested in Unilever withdrew their funds, due to the fact that the Ben & Jerry’s boycott could potentially put them in violation of anti-BDS laws in their jurisdictions.

These withdrawals, along with the public relations controversy around the highly politicized boycott, caused Unilever stocks to plunge in price.

A Michigan pension fund that had heavily invested in Unilever filed a lawsuit against the company in June 2022, arguing that the company should have disclosed the boycott in time to allow shareholders to sell their stocks and mitigate financial losses.

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But Manhattan-based Federal Judge Lorna Schofield ruled on Tuesday that Unilever had not, in fact, been required to tell investors about the boycott before it was declared.

Schofield also rejected the plaintiff’s assertion that Unilever’s Board of Directors had intentionally misled their investors by failing to announce the boycott for a significant amount of time.

The judge wrote that she believes the delay in announcing the move was likely the Board giving itself time “to determine what, if anything, to do about” the boycott, and not a calculated move aimed at deceiving investors.

She dismissed the lawsuit.

Unilever and the pension fund have yet to comment publicly on the ruling.