Only days after revealing that attempts to find an out-of-court resolution to the lawsuit filed by the independent board of ice-cream maker Ben & Jerry’s against its parent company Unilever, the board revealed that Unilever froze its directors’ salaries in July to pressure them during the mediation efforts.

First reported by Reuters, the revelation is the latest chapter in the spat between the multinational conglomerate and the Burlington, Vt.-based ice-cream maker known for its far-left social values and support for BDS. 

The problem began last summer when Ben & Jerry’s announced that it had cut ties with its Israeli distributor, American Quality Product Ltd.—run by Israeli businessman Avi Zinger—which had been the sole distributor of Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream in Israel and Judea and Samaria for decades.

The independent board had asked Zinger to stop distributing the desserts in Judea and Samaria, but Zinger replied that it was against Israeli law to discriminate against Judea and Samaria by not providing them with the ice cream like in other parts of Israel.

Zinger sued Unilever as a result of the broken contract and for Ben & Jerry’s attempts to compel him to break Israeli law.

In late June, Unilever settled with Zinger by condemning BDS as anti-Semitism and giving Zinger’s company complete control to manufacture and distribute Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream in Israel.

Unilever claimed that the sale agreement was made in accordance with its acquisition contract of Ben & Jerry’s in 2000 in which Unilever controls the company’s financial and operational decisions while the independent board of Ben & Jerry’s was allowed to continue making decisions about the company’s social mission.

After Unilever’s settlement, Ben & Jerry’s board sued its parent company on July 5, seeking to prevent the sale. It justified its lawsuit by claiming that the production and sale of Ben & Jerry’s in Judea and Samaria were “inconsistent” with its values.

“This decision for us to go to court is because of Unilever’s sale without our input, which is a clear violation of the letter and the spirit of our original acquisition agreement with Unilever,” Ben & Jerry’s board chair Anuradha Mittal said in an interview with Reuters. “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.”

“If left unaddressed, Unilever’s actions will undermine our social mission and essential integrity of the brand, which threatens our reputation and ultimately our business as a whole,” she added.

A hearing for Ben & Jerry’s lawsuit against Unilever is slated for Aug. 8.

JNS

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