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Coca-Cola Reports SEC Probe Based on Lawsuit

DENVER - U.S. regulators are probing Coca-Cola Co. over accusations raised last year in a lawsuit by a former employee who charged the world's largest soft drink maker with inflating earnings, the company said yesterday, according to Reuters.

Coca-Cola said it would continue to cooperate fully with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission investigation. Litigation filed by former employee Matthew Whitley has since been settled. In a statement the company did not disclose what the SEC was investigating. In his lawsuit, Whitley had accused the company of inflating earnings, among other allegations.

Whitley, a former finance executive in the company's food services division, was terminated along with hundreds of others in March as Atlanta-based Coca-Cola restructured its North American operations. He filed a $44.4 million wrongful-dismissal lawsuit against the company, claiming it had improperly inflated its earnings. Coca-Cola later confirmed the whistleblower's accusation that employees rigged a marketing test for its Frozen Coke product three years ago in a bid to win business with Burger King Corp. Coca-Cola has since apologized to the Miami-based fast-food chain.

Separately, Lancer Corp. which makes drink-dispensing systems, also said it had also received a formal order of investigation from the SEC that was connected to the Whitley lawsuit.

SEC spokesman Herb Perone declined to comment on Coca-Cola's statement.
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