British mega-corporation faces Florida sanctions for Ben & Jerry’s exit from Israeli-controlled territories | Florida

(The Center Square) – Florida will stop investing in a UK-based global conglomerate because it failed to stop Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, a subsidiary it controls, from following through on its plan to stop selling products in the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel by the end of the year.

The Florida State Board of Directors (SBA), which manages the investments of Florida pension funds and hurricane-related disaster funds, among other state assets, has invested $ 139 million in Unilever PLC as part of the state’s $ 200 billion portfolio.

The Vermont-based ice cream maker announced on July 19: “We believe it is incompatible with our values ​​that Ben & Jerry’s ice cream be sold in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT).

Ben & Jerry’s has a factory in Be’er Tuviya, Israel, and has been doing business since 1987 in Israel. The movement does not apply to Israel itself.

Shortly thereafter, Governor Ron DeSantis asked Florida State Board of Administration (SBA) executive director and chief investment officer Ash Williams to place Ben & Jerry’s and Unilever PLC on the state’s “reviewed companies” list and gave him 90 days to change his policy. .

This deadline is Tuesday.

Florida is one of 35 states whose statutes penalize companies that participate in the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel and Israeli companies.

In 2018, Florida lawmakers passed House Bill 545, which imposes sanctions, including divestment, on companies involved in the “BDS” movement.

Under HB 545, the SBA is prohibited from buying shares, giving contracts, and dealing with companies “terminating business activities, or taking other steps to limit business relations with Israel.” , or persons or entities doing business in Israel or in territories controlled by Israel. , in a discriminatory manner.

Any business that falls under this description is placed on the state’s list of “controlled businesses”, contacted, and given a time frame to reverse their offending actions. If that does not happen, the state has an array of options, including divesting a company it has invested in.

Unless Unilever forces Ben & Jerry to change its policy between Monday and Tuesday, Florida will no longer buy new Unilever shares. The state won’t sell the $ 139 million in shares it already owns in the London-based company, unlike Arizona and New Jersey, which sell all of Unilever’s stock. Lawmakers in Illinois and New York are also considering parting ways with Unilever.

In early 2019, shortly after taking office, DeSantis placed the global vacation rental platform Airbnb on the state’s list of “reviewed businesses” under the provisions of HB 545 after deciding in November 2018 to write off properties in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

“We have a moral obligation to oppose Airbnb’s policy,” DeSantis said at the time. “It specifically targets Jews. When you target Jews for disadvantaged treatment, that is the essence of anti-Semitism. In Florida, as long as I am governor, BDS will be DOA ”

Airbnb finally changed its policy in favor of DeSantis; satisfaction and was never sanctioned under HB 545, making Unilever possibly the first company to be sanctioned under the law.

Florida CFO Jimmy Patronis said the state was ready to take a stand on behalf of Israel, commerce and industry.

“Israel is a friend of Florida, it’s a thriving democracy with amazing people and culture, and Ben & Jerry’s decision to very publicly discriminate against Israel was a short-sighted attempt to signal people on the radical left Patronis said in a statement. “Ben & Jerry’s second decision to discriminate against Israel affected Florida’s ability to make investments with its parent company. “

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