Amnesty Criticizes Airbnb for Listings Ahead of IPO

TEL AVIV (Reuters) -
The logos of Airbnb. (REUTERS/Issei Kato/File Photo)

Amnesty International accused Airbnb of acting in bad faith towards investors ahead of its stock market debut on Thursday by failing to inform them of its politically sensitive business activities in Yehuda and Shomron.

Airbnb did not provide comment on Amnesty’s charge. A company spokesman referred Reuters to a statement it made in 2019 saying it would not take profits from its listings in the region.

Amnesty, which wants Airbnb to delist rental properties in Yehuda and Shomron, said in a statement that the company should have mentioned them in the “Risk Factors” section of a Nov. 16 regulatory filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

The San Francisco-based booking company is holding an initial public offering on Nasdaq on Thursday.

“Airbnb stock is expected to be purchased by investment and pension funds across the world, which could mean that a large number of people will indirectly hold investments in Airbnb without understanding the full ramifications,” the human rights group said.

Most countries regard the cities and towns that Israel built in the area as illegal. Israel disputes that, citing security needs and historical and religious links to the territory.

Airbnb has around 200 properties for rent in Israeli communities in the region, Amnesty said.

Bowing to pressure from Palestinians and human rights activists, Airbnb in 2018 said it would remove the properties in question. But following legal challenges in the United States, it reversed the decision in 2019 while committing to donate profits from the bookings.

“Any profits generated for Airbnb by any Airbnb host activity in the entire West Bank will be donated to non-profit organizations dedicated to humanitarian aid that serve people in different parts of the world,” Airbnb said in its April 2019 statement.

Airbnb was one of 112 companies the United Nations’ human rights office said have business ties to settlements, a list that also included other travel firms and a steel producer.