Feds Issue Subpoenas in Coke Fraud Inquiry

02 March 2004

US federal prosecutors have issued Coca-Cola with grand jury subpoenas as part of a fraud probe.

Coke announced the inquiry's latest developments in a filing with America's Securities and Exchange Commission late last week. The beverage behemoth added that it had supplied "substantial documents and other information to the SEC" after informal requests.

However, the drinks giant played down the prosecutors' move. "This is a normal part of the formal investigation process with which we are fully co-operating," a spokesman declared

The probe relates to allegations made by Matthew Whitley, a former finance director at Coke's fountains unit. His accusations include a $2 billion (€1.6bn; £1.1bn) accounting fraud, discrimination against minorities and women, manipulation of inventories and the rigging of a Frozen Coke marketing test at Burger King.

Coke has denied most of the claims, but last year had to admit its employees had tampered with the Burger King test [WAMN: 14-Aug-03].

The filing reveals that the SEC is investigating whether Coke or its officials breached federal securities laws in connection with the Whitley accusations.

Coke stressed that no criminal charges or civil enforcement measures have been issued as a result of the inquiry. However, the update conceded that the company "cannot predict whether any such actions will be filed in the future."

Data sourced from: USA Today; additional content by WARC staff