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Florida pension leader says on track to restrict Unilever

09/21/2021 | 12:05pm EDT
FILE PHOTO: Unilever headquarters in Rotterdam

BOSTON (Reuters) -Florida's top pension investment officer said on Tuesday he expects the state will restrict purchases of Unilever PLC assets starting in late October after the company's Ben & Jerry's brand halted sales in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Ash Williams, chief investment officer of the Florida State Board of Administration, which oversees pension assets, said at a webcast state hearing that "we've not seen any meaningful response from Unilever" after discussions with the company.

Unilever and Ben & Jerry's representatives did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Some other U.S. states have moved to sell Unilever stock and bonds after the Ben & Jerry's move https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/ben-jerrys-end-ice-cream-sales-occupied-palestinian-territories-2021-07-19, saying like Florida that the company violated rules against boycotts of Israel.

Florida's funds have about $139 million worth of Unilever stock, bonds and subsidiary holdings. State rules would not require the sale of those assets but would prohibit pension leaders from further purchases as of Oct. 26 unless the company changes course.

Vermont-based Ben & Jerry's said in July it would stop doing business in the "Occupied Palestinian Territory" that had been handled by a licensee partner since 1987. Most countries consider Israeli settlements on Palestinian land to be illegal. Israel disputes this.

London-based Unilever has said the decision was only that of Ben & Jerry's independent board. Unilever also has said it has a "strong and long-lasting commitment to our business in Israel," where it employs nearly 2,000 people.

Unilever has said it opposes anti-Semitism and does not support https://www.reuters.com/business/sustainable-business/unilever-rejects-boycott-movement-ceo-tells-us-based-jewish-groups-2021-07-28 the Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) movement that seeks to isolate Israel over its treatment of the Palestinians.

(Reporting by Ross Kerber; Editing by Will Dunham)

By Ross Kerber

© Reuters 2021
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