Texas may divest from Ben & Jerry's parent company after the ice cream manufacturer announced it will end operations in Israeli-controlled territories, the state's head financial officer said Thursday.
"I've directed my staff to determine whether any specific action taken by Ben & Jerry's or Unilever would trigger a listing under Chapter 808 of the Texas Government Code," which prohibits the state's pension fund from investing in companies that refuse to operate in an "Israeli-controlled territory," State Comptroller Glenn Hegar told CNBC.
The move follows Ben & Jerry's announcement Monday that the company will no longer sell its products in "Occupied Palestinian Territory," referring to the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The Texas statute applies to parent companies and could force the state to divest its multibillion-dollar retirement fund from Unilever, which purchased the ice cream company in 2000.
Ben & Jerry's boycott could also force a dozen other states with similar laws, including New Jersey, Illinois, and Florida, to divest from the British conglomerate. Florida chief financial officer Jimmy Patronis, who manages his state's pension fund, said his office is evaluating the issue, according to CNBC. More than 30 states have anti-boycott laws and executive orders, including measures that could prohibit state governments from working with Unilever and Ben & Jerry's.
Following the ice cream company's Monday announcement, Unilever said it remains "fully committed to our presence in Israel, where we have invested in our people, brands, and business for several decades." Ben & Jerry's board chair Anuradha Mittal, however, says Unilever released the statement without first consulting the Vermont-based company. Members of the board had objected to the statement, which includes a promise to "stay in Israel through a different arrangement."
In its statement, Ben & Jerry's said that selling products in Israeli-controlled territories was "inconsistent" with its values. Its parent company, however, operates in several countries accused of human rights abuses. Unilever works with a Chinese state-owned company that is based in Xinjiang, where China detains Muslim Uyghurs in concentration camps.