(Shutterstock with additions by United With Israel)
New York City Unilever

Don’t let the New York City Comptroller’s Office circumvent the Big Apple’s anti-BDS laws.

New York City’s pension fund is the fourth largest in the U.S., making it a powerful symbol of socially responsible investment. The retirement funds for thousands of teachers, police officers, public transit workers, administrators and more all ride on the daily management of the City Comptroller’s office and the governance of the City Council. With wise investment, a lot of good can be done with the Big Apple’s $250 billion pension fund.

The city also has an anti-BDS law on the books. City Administrative Code §6-114 prohibits “city contractors, and substantially owned affiliate companies, from participating in international boycotts.” Local reports say the city’s five pension funds collectively hold $189 million in Unilever, the parent company of Ben & Jerry’s.

But it doesn’t appear likely that the Comptroller’s Office will divest those holdings.

The issue with the Comptroller’s Office is literally a two-headed problem: Outgoing Comptroller Scott Stringer and Comptroller-elect Brad Lander, who will be sworn into office in several weeks.

When Ben & Jerry’s announced in July that it was boycotting Judea and Samaria, more than 30 U.S. states began reviewing their anti-BDS laws and holdings in the London-based Unilever. So far, Arizona, Florida, New Jersey and New York have announced that they have dumped their Unilever investments, or are in the process of doing so. More states are expected to follow suit.

While public officials from coast to coast confirmed months ago that they were reviewing their Unilever holdings, Stringer ignored media queries and even a letter sent in July by Bronx Councilman Eric Dinowitz. The question Stringer repeatedly evaded was whether he would bring the pension funds into compliance. Local reports suggest he may be straddling the fence to position himself for a future Congressional campaign.

And Comptroller-elect Brad Lander is already on record saying that investing in Unilever poses no risk to the city’s pension funds. “If anything, continuation of the occupation poses grave ongoing risks to Palestinians, to Israelis, and to those that care about them,” Lander said in a statement in July.

Stringer maintains that he opposes BDS and insists that divesting the city’s five pension funds is administratively complicated. As for the lack of responsiveness, Stringer told a Hamodia reporter who confronted him outside City Hall that he gets “hundreds of requests” and said “we try to answer all the requests.”

Lander has no defense. He was elected to manage the money. The City Council sets the policy. Period.

To quote from the New York City Comptroller’s own web site, the comptroller is responsible for “promoting policies that enhance City government’s commitment to efficiency, integrity and performance for all New Yorkers.”

Efficiency? We didn’t see that in Stringer’s radio silence to Council Member Dinowitz or repeated media queries.

Integrity? We see two politicians essentially thumbing their noses at the City Council and local law.

Performance? We see two politicians evading their duty.

Demand the comptroller divest the city’s Unilever holdings

Contact the Comptroller’s Office contact page.

If you live in New York City, contact your city council member.

If you’re not a resident of the city, email the council: correspondence@council.nyc.gov