Coca-Cola counsel quits amid corruption inquiry

Coca-Cola’s general counsel and corporate secretary Deval Patrick has quit the drinks giant.

Patrick’s resignation coincides with investigations by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Department of Justice into claims that Coca-Cola inflated profits by shipping excessive soft drink syrup to bottlers in Japan.

However, a Coca-Cola spokesperson denied that the two were linked and said Patrick’s exit is not a sign that the federal authorities will make a finding against the company.

Coca-Cola’s board is standing by Patrick. In a memorandum dated 14 April to all employees, the company’s chief executive officer Doug Daft said: “I want to personally reaffirm that Deval has my and the board’s confidence and support in the professional and effective manner in which he and his legal team have conducted our legal affairs.”

Patrick, who joined Coca-Cola from ChevronTexaco, is being replaced by Geoff Kelly as an interim general counsel. Kelly is a 34-year-old veteran of Coca-Cola’s legal department. Patrick is due to leave the company at the end of the year. Until that time he will remain in his current positions and will continue to focus on the federal authorities’ investigations.