Vermont ice cream maker Ben & Jerry’s said it plans to amend its lawsuit against its parent company, Unilever, to prevent it from allowing the sale of its ice cream franchise in Israel, Reuters reported. Ben & Jerry’s filed a letter in federal court in Manhattan Tuesday night, saying it plans to amend its complaint by Sept. 27. Unilever’s response will be due by November 1. According to the same letter, Unilever has agreed to this timetable. The parent company’s response was initially due yesterday.
Unilever tried to resolve the ongoing dispute over the sale of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream in Judea and Samaria by allowing the Israeli franchise holder since the mid-1980s, Avi Zinger, to purchase his franchise permanently, which would allow him to sell the Ben & Jerry’s products in Jewish settlements. But Anuradha Mittal, founder of the Oakland Institute, a progressive think tank, and head of the board of directors of Ben & Jerry’s, announced earlier this summer: “If Unilever is willing to so blatantly violate the agreement that has governed the parties’ conduct for over two decades, then we believe it won’t stop with this issue.”
She explained that “if left unaddressed, Unilever’s actions will undermine our social mission and the essential integrity of the brand, which threatens our reputation, and ultimately, our business as a whole.”
In July 2021, Ben & Jerry under Mittal’s directorship announced it would stop selling ice cream in the “Occupied Palestinian Territories.”
The announcement created a problem for Unilever, whose business interests were starting to get seriously hurt in US states where boycotting Israel is grounds for a company’s ban from their pension funds and other investments. Unilever came under heavy pressure from those states, Israel, and American and international investors, all demanding that it reverse its subsidiary’s decision. Last June, Unilever announced it would sell its Ben & Jerry’s business in Israel to Zinger who could sell his ice cream wherever he wanted.
Ben & Jerry’s, apparently, did not feel the same way.
In early July, Mittal announced Ben & Jerry’s was filing a lawsuit against its parent company, demanding that Unilever recognize its “violation of the letter and the spirit of our original Merger Agreement.”
The mediation between the two companies collapsed in mid-July.
Ben & Jerry’s move to amend their lawsuit came two weeks after US District Judge Andrew Carter denied its request for an injunction to block the sale to Zinger, and ruled the ice cream maker failed to show that it would suffer irreparable harm if the deal remained intact.
Anuradha Mittal has been the subject of a complaint to the IRS regarding her alleged funneling of thousands of dollars in cash from “her” corporation to her foundation. The group that launched the complaint is the National Legal and Policy Center, a right-leaning 501(c)(3) non-profit group that monitors and reports on the ethics of public officials, supporters of liberal causes, and labor unions in the United States.