The New Jersey Department of the Treasury’s Division of Investment issued the following statement today regarding State pension fund holdings in Unilever plc, the parent company of Ben & Jerry’s:
“Following the letter and spirit of the law, the State of New Jersey’s Division of Investment, working with its independent consultant, ISS, conducted a review of the actions of Ben & Jerry’s and its parent company, Unilever, to determine whether such actions constituted a boycott of Israel or companies operating in Israel or Israeli-controlled territory. Following this review, the division reached a preliminarily determination that Unilever’s actions did in fact constitute such a boycott and sent a letter to Unilever notifying the company of its provisional determination. Upon final determination, no pension fund assets may be invested in the company, and DOI shall take appropriate action to sell or divest any existing pension fund investments,” said Shoaib Khan, Director of the NJ Division of Investment.
Download below full copy of the letter sent to Unilever.
Senate Republican Leader Tom Kean (R-21) and Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-37) sponsored a 2016 law which prohibits the investment of state public employee retirement funds in companies that boycott Israel.
In July, Kean and Weinberg sent a letter to Shoaib Khan, Director of the Division of Investment in Treasury, requesting a review of Ben & Jerry’s following the company’s announcement that it would stop licensing its products for sale in specific areas of Israel.
Senator Kean said today’s announcement by the New Jersey Department of Treasury demonstrates the success of the 2016 law.
“Our anti-BDS law was one of the first in the nation to use the power of state investment decisions to remove support for businesses that boycott Israel,” said Kean. “The announcement by Treasury that state investment will be prohibited in the parent company of Ben & Jerry’s following a review we requested pursuant to the law we enacted is yet another example that the process works as intended.”
BDS refers to the boycott, divestment, and sanctions efforts of some companies to boycott Israeli goods, products, and businesses.
This is not the first time the Kean/Weinberg law has been employed successfully.
The senators sent a joint request for review to the Division of Investment in 2019 in response to concerns about Airbnb after the rental service refused listings in Israeli settlements. The review resulted in the prohibition of State investments. Following New Jersey’s decision and similar actions by other states, Airbnb reversed its policy.
“Our law sends the clear message that New Jersey will not tolerate anti-Semitism and we won’t financially support businesses that target Israel,” added Kean. “There are plenty of businesses that don’t engage in BDS activities where New Jersey’s $90 billion pension fund can be invested to the benefit of our public workers.”