Treasurer Folwell to 'Follow the Law' on Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream Divestiture

Statute Requires Action if Company Boycotts Israel

(Raleigh, N.C.) – State Treasurer Dale R. Folwell, CPA, acknowledged today that he received a letter from the National Legal and Policy Center (NLPC) requesting that North Carolina join others in “the immediate divestiture of Unilever [Ben & Jerry’s] holdings in all public pension funds managed and controlled by the State of North Carolina.” State statute prohibits “the North Carolina Retirement Systems or the Department of State Treasurer from investing in any company engaged in a boycott of Israel.”  

On July 19, 2021, Ben & Jerry’s issued a statement saying that it was “inconsistent with our values for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to be sold in the Occupied Palestine Territory (OPT),” adding that it had informed its licensee in that area that it would not renew its license at the end of 2022. The OPT is generally referred to as the West Bank, East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip, and the Golan Heights. Much of this territory was seized by Israel during its 1967 “Six-Day War” with Egypt, Syria and Jordan. 

Unilever is a British multi-national consumer goods company with extensive holdings including Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. In the letter to Treasurer Folwell, NLPC requested that “you affect [sic] the immediate divestiture of Unilever holdings in all public pension funds managed and controlled by North Carolina.” 

Treasurer Folwell added that once Ben & Jerry’s (Unilever) terminates its license with the distributor in Israel, then the Investment Management Division would review the status of the law and adjust its investments to fully comply with any statutory requirements.   

The North Carolina Retirement Systems provides retirement benefits and savings for more than 900,000 members, including teachers, firefighters, police officers, state and local government employees and other public workers. The Department of State Treasurer manages the pension plans’ investments currently totaling $121.4 billion. 

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