As the phenomenon of ESG-related litigation has developed and evolved in recent months, it has unfolded that the lawsuits are not, as was expected, being filed against ESG laggards, but instead are being filed against companies that were proactive on ESG-related issues. One of the cases illustrating this development is the securities lawsuit filed against the consumer products company Unilever, based on allegations that the company had failed to disclose a resolution passed by the independent board of its Ben and Jerry’s subsidiary to end ice cream sales in occupied Israeli territories. On August 29, 2023, In a ruling that suggests that these kinds of ESG-related cases could face challenges, Southern District of New York Judge Lorna Schofield granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss the lawsuit, on the grounds that the plaintiff had failed to sufficiently plead scienter. A copy of the August 29 opinion and order can be found here.Continue Reading ESG-Related Suit Against Unilever Based on Ben & Jerry’s Board’s Resolution Dismissed
As I have previously noted (most recently here), something of an anti-ESG backlash has started to take shape, at least in certain quarters. Legislatures in several states have passed legislation prohibiting state pension funds from investing in ESG- focused investments or prohibiting the state from doing business with companies that boycott certain industries. The backlash has also taken the form of litigation, as, for example, with respect to the lawsuit recently filed against Starbucks board pertaining to the company’s diversity, equity, and inclusion initiative (DEI).
As Alison Frankel discusses in an October 26, 2022 post on her On the Case blog (here), and in the latest manifestation of this kind of anti-ESG litigation, a nonprofit group has filed an action against the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer based on the company’s sponsorship of a foundation offering fellowships aimed at Black, Latino, Native American and other minority candidates. This latest lawsuit is yet another indication that the companies that get caught up in ESG litigation may the companies taking ESG initiatives, perhaps more so that ESG laggards.
Continue Reading Suits Targeting Firms Seeking to Boost Minorities Highlight ESG Risks