Three former finance officials of the world’s largest soft drink maker have told federal investigators they witnessed the company overship drink concentrate to Japanese bottlers in order to boost its financial results, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Federal investigators were told the company used incentives to make the overshipments more palatable to Japanese bottlers, according to the Journal, which cited unnamed sources. The paper pointed out that a shareholders lawsuit four years ago raised similar accusations. Coca-Cola’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit, which was amended and refiled last year, is pending.
Earlier this month, Coke announced that the Securities and Exchange Commission had launched a formal investigation stemming from allegations made by whistle-blower Matthew Whitley. The former finance manager had sought a $44.4 million settlement from the company, claiming he had been fired in retaliation for raising concerns about accounting fraud. (For more, read “Whistle-Blower Woes.”
Regarding the reports of overshipments, Coca-Cola said in a statement on Friday that “the government has not yet informed us about the specific issues it is interested in investigating, but when it does so, we will continue to offer our full cooperation on its areas of interest.”
Meanwhile, Lancer Corp., a company that provides soda fountain equipment to Coca-Cola and is also being investigated by the SEC and the Justice Department, announced on Friday that an independent investigation had not found enough evidence that its management team had engaged in any intentional misconduct in connection with the allegations of corporate wrongdoing raised by Whitley.
At the same time, Lancer announced that George F. Schroeder is resigning as chief executive officer, effective February 28.