Coca-Cola's general counsel (who demanded its law firms have at least 30% of billable hours performed by 'diverse' lawyers) leaves his job

The Coca-Cola Company seems to be learning the hard way that signing up for the racialist agenda of the left has a downside.  Bradley Gayton, senior vice president and general counsel of the Coca-Cola Company until yesterday, generated a firestorm with the release of this January 28, 2021 letter instructing the law firms that perform legal services for it to

commit that at least 30% of each of billed associate and partner time will be from diverse attorneys, and of such amounts at least half will be from Black attorneys.

The letter helpfully defined Persons of Diversity (PODs) as

American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian, Black, Women, Hispanic/Latinx, LGBTQ+, Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander and Persons with Disabilities[.]


Bradley Gayton (photo source: Coca-Cola Company).

Many questioned the legality of such an order, given that anti-discrimination law forbids eliminating people from work based solely on race.

That was followed by another P.R. disaster in February, when it was revealed that mandatory diversity training at Coke instructed employees to "try to be less white."

Then, after Georgia passed an election integrity law that Democrats opposed, Coke's British CEO criticized it:

The Coca-Cola Company does not support this legislation, as it makes it harder for people to vote, not easier.

But the company now apparently has decided to ease away from the racialist agenda by accepting the "resignation" of Gayton and paying him off to the tune of many millions of dollars to go away quietly.  Bloomberg Law reports:

The Coca-Cola Co. announced Wednesday that it is moving legal chief Bradley Gayton to a "strategic consultant" role less than a year after he joined the company (snip)

Coca-Cola disclosed the details of Gayton's consulting agreement, which could be worth up to nearly $12 million, in a securities filing Wednesday.

The deal gives Gayton a lump sum "make-whole payment" of $4 million, a waiver of "repayment obligations of certain benefits" related to his initial employment agreement with the company, and a nearly $670,000 monthly consulting fee starting in May 2021 and extending through April 2022.

The payments are contingent on Gayton's "continued compliance with certain restrictive covenants contained in the consulting agreement," the filing said.

Gayton received about $4.7 million in total compensation from Coca-Cola last year, according to an annual proxy statement filed by the company March 4. Gayton's pay package included nearly $3.5 million in stock awards, a $576,000 cash bonus, and roughly $253,300 in prorated base salary.

He currently owns over $4 million in Coca-Cola stock and nearly $2.9 million in Ford Motor Co. stock, according to Bloomberg data. Coca-Cola hired Gayton last year from Ford, where he spent almost three decades in-house, the last four of which he served as the top lawyer for the Dearborn, Mich.-based automaker.

Wow!  The consulting contract alone pays him over $8 million for one year, 71% more than he earned in his first year working for the company, in addition to the $4 million that is being called a "make whole" agreement.  I strongly suspect that the undisclosed "restrictive covenants" that Mr. Gayton agreed to include keeping his mouth shut.


Still from a vintage Coca-Cola promo when Coke sold a product, not politics.
Hat tip: Andrea Widburg.

Gayton has been replaced by Monica Howard Douglas, an in-house lawyer at Coke.


Photo via Business Wire.

Douglas is a 17-year veteran of the company who most recently served as chief compliance officer and associate general counsel for the North America operating unit. In her new role, Douglas will oversee the company's global legal function, reporting to Chairman and CEO James Quincey.

Douglas joined Coca-Cola in 2004 as senior managing counsel. She went on to hold roles of increasing responsibility, including as legal director for Coca-Cola Southern and East Africa, before being named general counsel for Coca-Cola North America in 2018.

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