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    Coca-Cola Hit With Lawsuit

    Soft drink maker says former employee demanded $44M to keep quiet.

    ATLANTA -- A former Coca-Cola Co. employee filed a lawsuit Monday alleging that the soft drink maker engaged in deceptive marketing and accounting and knowingly sold contaminated products, according the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

    The suit alleges that the employee, Matthew Whitley, lost his job on March 26 after approaching the world's largest soft drink maker about these alleged misdeeds.

    Coca-Cola said in a statement that it could not fully respond to the 85-page lawsuit until an independent investigation was completed. But the Atlanta-based company said that Whitley demanded that Coca-Cola pay him about $44 million to keep quiet.

    "One has to wonder what is motivating him if he is unwilling to wait for the findings of these independent investigations?" Coca-Cola said in its statement. "Maybe he is concerned that the facts will not support his allegations and will undercut his outrageous demand for $44 million."

    Whitley's lawyer, Marc Garber, portrayed his client as an 11-year company veteran who notified management that Coca-Cola had a problem with its Frozen Ice Drinks because metal shavings were getting into the drinks.

    The suit said Whitley also brought to management's attention a $65 million marketing fraud aimed at getting Burger King to become a Coke customer, and that a group of employees was inflating profits by falsely reporting certain Coke syrup deliveries as sales.

    Coke management did not address Whitley's concerns, but instead later terminated him "by maliciously manufacturing a false and fraudulent performance review," the lawsuit said.

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