House members call on SEC to review Unilever filings over Ben & Jerry's Israel boycott

The bipartisan group wrote that the West Bank boycott of Ben & Jerry's disregard numerous United States’ state laws.

 Unilever headquarters in Rotterdam, Netherlands August 21, 2018.  (photo credit: REUTERS/PIROSCHKA VAN DE WOUW)
Unilever headquarters in Rotterdam, Netherlands August 21, 2018.
(photo credit: REUTERS/PIROSCHKA VAN DE WOUW)

WASHINGTON − A bipartisan group of House members is calling for an updated disclosure of regulatory filings of Unilever, following its decision not to sell Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.

“We write to express our deep concern over recent actions by Unilever [regarding] boycott of sales of ice cream products by Unilever’s wholly owned subsidiary, Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream in the West Bank and east Jerusalem,” wrote Josh Gottheimer, Ritchie Torres, Andrew Garbarino, and Brian Fitzpatrick, who penned the letter, to Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Gary Gensler.

The representatives added that they believed these actions required the SEC to request that the regulatory filings of Unilever be amended to disclose the material risk factors.

“We also understand that the actions by Ben & Jerry’s disregards numerous United States state laws, which require a state to divest from companies that participate in such boycotts,” they wrote. “It is also our understanding that Unilever may have violated Rule 10b-5 of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 relating to material omissions in the 6-K. Given the potential negative impact of such material omissions, which is why we believe the SEC should ask Unilever to revise the ‘Principal Risk Factors’ section of their 6-K to fully and accurately disclose the potential material adverse consequences to the company based by the claimed independence of the Ben & Jerry’s Board of Directors, and the specific potential effects of the Ben & Jerry’s boycott.

“We have also been informed that the 6-K filed by Unilever fails to include specific language that details the potential adverse consequences to Unilever created by the Ben & Jerry’s boycott in its 'Principal Risk Factors' section.”

The US Capitol building, which contains the House of Representatives and the Senate. (credit: PIXABAY)The US Capitol building, which contains the House of Representatives and the Senate. (credit: PIXABAY)

The representatives said that they believed it is appropriate for the SEC to take steps “to ensure the full disclosure of all information necessary to make Unilever’s filings in compliance with the rules and regulations of the United States’ SEC. Unilever is a widely held company with a current market capitalization of $135 billion, which places in jeopardy the manifold United States institutions, pension funds, and endowments which hold its shares on behalf of its beneficiaries. We ask that you consider our request, brought to us by our constituents, and give full and fair consideration within all applicable laws, rules, and regulations.”