Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito sold Bud Light owner’s stock amid boycott

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Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito sold shares of beer giant Anheuser-Busch as conservatives were ditching the Bud Light brewer over its partnership with a transgender social media influencer.

On the same day Alito sold Anheuser-Busch, he then bought the same amount of stock in Molson Coors, a company with a history of facing political boycotts of its own, the filing shows.

The transactions have bred fresh accusations that Alito, one of the high court’s six conservatives, is engaging in or aligning with partisan politics, despite a recently adopted code of conduct that directs the justices to “refrain from political activity.”

Alito sold between $1,000 and $15,000 of AB InBev’s stock on Aug. 14, 2023, according to a financial disclosure filing for the justice that was recently made visible through a federal judicial database.

The Supreme Court did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment on Alito’s transaction report or the timing of his stock activity.

At the time of Alito’s stock sale, Anheuser-Busch was still grappling with a monthslong campaign to boycott Bud Light after the company partnered with transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney in an April 2023 social media campaign.

The partnership threw the world’s largest beermaker to the center of a broader fight over transgender rights and acceptance in the U.S. — and stoked a backlash from both conservatives and supporters of Mulvaney, who was reportedly stalked and targeted with death threats amid the controversy.

In May 2023, Modelo replaced Bud Light as the top-selling beer in the U.S. Data from around that time showed sales of Bud Light had dropped nearly 25% year over year.

AB InBev nevertheless reported better-than-expected profits in the second fiscal quarter of 2023, and as of May appears to have emerged from the boycott efforts virtually unscathed.

Alito’s switch to Coors is also noteworthy in light of the company’s history of facing boycotts from Mexican-Americans, Black people and the LGBTQ community over workplace practices.

Alito’s investment activities came to light as the associate justice is facing a swell of criticism over a New York Times report that an upside-down U.S. flag — a symbol used by supporters of the pro-Trump “Stop the Steal” conspiracy — was flown at his home in the days after the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol.

Alito denied any involvement in inverting the flag. He told the Times that his wife, Martha-Ann Alito, “briefly” did so “in response to a neighbor’s use of objectionable and personally insulting language on yard signs.”

But that statement has not quelled Alito’s critics, some of whom are now demanding he explain the timing of his sale of Anheuser-Busch.

“This sale, given the timing and much like an upside-down flag, can be construed as a political statement,” said Gabe Roth, executive director of the nonprofit judicial watchdog group Fix the Court, in an email to CNBC.

“I believe Supreme Court justices should refrain from making political statements — even oblique ones or even ones their wife or broker may have made on their property or in their brokerage accounts, respectively,” Roth said.

Roth noted that the beer companies in question have no pending business before the Supreme Court that he can think of.

But if Alito or his broker were truly reacting to the Bud Light boycott or the surrounding culture war, Roth said, then the stock sale “speaks more about the justice’s media intake and where that puts him on the political spectrum.”

“If the sale was in response to the Bud Light controversy last year, he might have an appearance-of-bias problem when it comes to future court cases related to trans rights,” Roth said.

The transaction notice was one of several that were posted to the Federal Judicial Financial Disclosure Reports database last week, and then removed without explanation. Roth said their disappearance was “possibly due to the newness of the system.” The reports had reemerged on the database as of late Monday morning.

The filings were first reported earlier Monday by the legal blog Law Dork.

The court is set to soon deliver a ruling on whether former President Donald Trump enjoys presidential immunity from criminal charges related to his efforts to overturn his loss to President Joe Biden in the 2020 election.

The court, which bears a six-to-three conservative majority after Trump appointed three justices, is not expected to grant Trump’s sweeping immunity claim that a former president cannot be charged for any official acts they perform in office. But the justices in oral arguments in April seemed skeptical of parts of federal prosecutors’ case against Trump.

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