Coke Trade Secrets Trial Gets Under Way

24 January 2007

ATLANTA: A former Coca-Cola Company secretary plotted with two ex-felons to steal trade secrets and sell them to arch rival PepsiCo for $1.5 million (€1.15m; £756k), federal prosecutors claimed on the opening day of the woman's conspiracy trial.

Joya Williams is charged under the Corporate Espionage Act. Her two alleged accomplices, Ibrahim Dimson and Edmund Duhaney, pleaded guilty last year and are testifying against her. She faces up to ten years in jail if found guilty.

The Atlanta court heard Pepsi was offered the secrets by Dimson and Duhaney. However, the soft drinks company tipped-off Coke and a classic sting operation was launched by the FBI. The three alleged conspirators were arrested last summer.

Prosecutor Randy Chartash showed the jury surveillance photos of Williams at her desk at Coke's headquarters last year - taken after the FBI began investigating her. They show her apparently filling her personal bag with company documents, and with bottles of new drinks that were in development.

The jury was told Duhaney, a family friend, was invited by Williams to her apartment a year ago where she showed him Coke secrets she had taken.

He testified that she told him the material would be worth a lot of money to Coke's competitors and that she needed his help.

He and Dimson hatched a scheme to write to a Pepsi executive that they had "very detailed and confidential information about Coca Cola's marketing campaigns for the next four years".

Chartash said the case was about "greed and poor choices". He told the court that key evidence against Williams included a $4,000 deposit she made into her bank account, voicemail messages between her and the co-defendants and surveillance video.

In her opening statement for the defense, Williams' attorney Janice Singer said the case was really about two ex-cons who duped the former secretary, stole documents from her and conspired behind her back.

Singer said Williams was always taking work home with her, including confidential Coke documents and other items, all openly, in full view of company security. She added: "Does that sound like the acts of anyone trying to steal documents from her employer?"

The trial is expected to last up to two weeks.

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff