Florida will stop investing in a British-based global conglomerate because it has failed to stop Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, a subsidiary it controls, from following through with its plan to stop selling products in Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories by year’s end.
The Florida State Board of Administration (SBA), which manages investments for Florida’s pension and hurricane catastrophe 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 manufacturer announced on July 19: “We believe it is inconsistent with our values for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to be sold in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT).”
Ben & Jerry’s has a factory in Be’er Tuviya, Israel, and has conducted business since 1987 in Israel. The move does not apply to Israel proper.
Shortly afterwards, Gov. Ron DeSantis directed 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 list of “Scrutinized Companies” and gave it 90 days to change its policy.
That deadline is Tuesday.
Florida is one of 35 states with statutes on their books that penalize companies that participate in the Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel and Israeli companies.
In 2018, Florida lawmakers adopted House Bill 545, which imposes penalties, including divestment, on companies involved in the “BDS” movement.
Under HB 545, the SBA is banned from buying shares of, giving contracts to and dealing with companies “terminating business activities, or taking other actions to limit commercial relations with Israel, or persons or entities doing business in Israel or in Israel-controlled territories, in a discriminatory manner.”
Any company that falls under this description is placed on the state’s list of “Scrutinized Companies” list, contacted and provided a deadline to rescind their offensive actions. If that doesn’t happen, the state has an array of options, including divestment from a company it has invested in.
Unless Unilever forces Ben & Jerry to change its policy between Monday and Tuesday, Florida will longer purchase new Unilever shares. The state will not divest the $139 million in shares it already owns in the London-based corporation, unlike Arizona and New Jersey, which are selling all Unilever shares. Illinois and New York lawmakers are also considering divesting from Unilever.
In early 2019, shortly after assuming office, DeSantis placed global vacation rental platform Airbnb on the state’s ‘Scrutinized Companies’ list under HB 545’s provisions after it decided in November 2018 to delist properties in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
“We have a moral obligation to oppose the Airbnb policy,” DeSantis said at the time. “It does target Jews specifically. When you target Jews for disfavored treatment, that is the essence of anti-Semitism. In Florida, as long as I’m the governor, BDS will be D.O.A.”
Airbnb eventually altered its policy to DeSantis; satisfaction and was never sanctioned under HB 545, making Unilever likely the first company to be penalized under the law.
Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis said the state is ready to make a stand on behalf of Israel, commerce and industry.
“Israel is a friend of Florida, it’s a thriving democracy with incredible people and culture and Ben & Jerry’s decision to very publicly discriminate against Israel was a short-sighted attempt to virtue signal to folks on the radical left,” Patronis said in statement. “The second Ben & Jerry’s decided to discriminate against Israel, it affected Florida’s ability to make investments with its parent company.”
This article was originally posted on British megacorp faces Florida sanctions for Ben & Jerry’s exit from Israeli-held territories