A Unilever shareholder has sued the firm over claims it hid the decision by its subsidiary Ben & Jerry’s to pull out from Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories.
According to the class action lawsuit filed in Manhattan federal court, Unilever concealed the decision before it was announced over fears that many U.S. states might divest from companies that support anti-Israel boycotts.
Ben & Jerry’s announced last July it would stop selling its products in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and parts of East Jerusalem, and sever its three-decade relationship with an Israeli ice cream maker that rejected the ban. It said that
The lawsuit, filed by a Michigan pension fund, the City of St. Clair Shores Police and Fire Retirement System, claims that investors have suffered heavy losses over the move which sent Unilever shares plummeting eight per cent in the six days after the move. Bosses at Ben & Jerry’s said selling ice cream in the occupied Palestinian territories was “inconsistent with our values.”
States including Florida and Texas reviewed their relationships with the British consumer goods company in the wake of the decision, and some Jewish groups accused Ben & Jerry’s of anti-Semitism.
“As a result of defendants’ wrongful acts and omissions, and the declines in the market value of Unilever ADRs, plaintiff and other class members have suffered significant losses and damages,” the complaint said.
Ben & Jerry’s has built a reputation for its politically outspoken views and has drawn ire from top UNilever shareholders including Terry Smith, who attacked Unilever management for its focus on purpose over profit.
Unilever has been contacted for comment.