Campaign to Stop Killer Coke Newsletter June 30, 2011
Tax Evasion, Smuggling, Abuse of Workers, the Environment & Worse!
- SEC Complaint Filed Against Coke for Covering Up Risk of Legal Problems in Mexico
- Coke Annual Meeting: Human Rights Abuse Accusations & CEO Kent's Lies Dominate
- Guatemala Lawsuit Still in Court, Despite Coke CEO Kent's Denial
- Coke's Crimes in The Philippines, Kenya & Tanzania
- DC 37 AFSCME Public Employee Press Full-Page Story on Campaign in Latin America
- Metro NY Labor Communications Council Bans Coke at its Meetings
- Hagens Berman LLP Announces Investigation of The Coca-Cola Company
- Romanian Press Accuses Coke of Blackmail
Despite Lawsuits and a Government Investigation in Mexico that Could Cost Shareholders Billions of Dollars, Coke Refuses to Address Potential Liabilities
Ray Rogers, Director of Corporate Campaign, Inc. (CCI) and the Campaign to Stop Killer Coke filed a complaint on June 6, 2011, with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), urging the regulatory agency to investigate violations of U.S. securities law committed by The Coca-Cola Company and its Chief Executive and Chairman Muhtar Kent.
CCI's complaint to the SEC involves Coca-Cola's and Mr. Kent's public denial of the existence of an ongoing series of lawsuits and government investigation regarding the company's operations in Mexico that could potentially cost Coca-Cola and its shareholders billions of dollars.
Coke's annual meeting was held at the Cobb Galleria Centre in Atlanta, Georgia, on April 27. Coke's exhibit in the lobby included posters representing "Coke's humane and just values."
Joining Ray Rogers and Lew Friedman, who flew down from New York, and Ian Hoffmann who flew in from Minneapolis, were four residents of the Atlanta area — Jeffrey Wright, Steve Carr, Betty Martini and Tali Olmi — all willing to stand up to The Coca-Cola Company.
We would like to thank all those who sent proxies to us so that we were able to, once again, have an impact at the annual meeting.
This was to be a historical meeting celebrating the 125th anniversary of Coca-Cola. A special 125th anniversary pin was created as a gift to the attendees. Lew Friedman, seeing a Coke exec wearing the pin, offered to trade his Unthinkable! Undrinkable! Killer Coke pin in exchange for her pin. "No," she said, but then took her pin off and pinned it on Lew's collar. When Lew again offered his pin, she said, "No! It clashes!" Lew noted that it fully matched the red of her suit, but she replied: "It doesn't clash with my suit. It clashes with my values!" TRUE!
The Ballroom was packed with an estimated 1,000 attendees including many employees and "alumni" as a part of Coke's 125th anniversary celebration — more than a hundred members of the Young People's Chorus, all high school students, were performing and many of their parents were present.
The Chorus was terrific! They sang about four songs, although the lyrics were hypocritical associating Coke with "Open Happiness."
The meeting began with the chorus followed by CEO Muhtar Kent's hyperbole and propaganda highlighting Coke's "generosity" and "corporate responsibility." Then the business part of the meeting was opened where shareholders are supposed to get the opportunity to raise questions that could have a material effect on the Company or make comments and ask questions pertaining to resolutions.
Ray Rogers was called on and he tried to create a dialogue with Kent through a question and answer — Ray: "I'd like an answer, yes or no!" Kent: "Mr. Rogers, finish your question!" Ray did finish his statement describing the struggles that Angel Alvarado is having with the dishonest Coca-Cola Co. in Mexico:
After taking one more question on this issue, Kent moved on to the Election of Auditors, Ernst & Young. We had two important questions aimed at Ernst & Young's integrity that still demand answers, but we were unfortunately not able to ask them. In fact, Kent changed the rules stating that he would only take ONE question on this issue.
However, Lew Friedman took the floor to ask if Ernst & Young had done an analysis of what various lawsuits around the world would cost the Company, specifically the lawsuit against Coke in Guatemala for murder, attempted murder and gang rape against union leaders and family members because of their union activities.
Lew also threw in a short question at the end of his statement about Coke's position on the Georgia anti-immigrant law, similar to the Arizona law that caused a boycott of Arizona businesses. Lew noted that if the law passes, there could be a boycott, which would create a problem for "our" company.
Ian Hoffman was prepared to ask a question about Michael Blanding's book, published in September 2010, "The Coke Machine." When Kent changed the rules of the meeting and it was clear that we could not get all our questions brought up, Ian stood up and challenged Kent over his undemocratic handling of the meeting. He was ordered to sit down and when he refused, he walked to the front of the auditorium holding the book in the air and gave it to a director he thought was Barry Diller before he was escorted from the meeting by the local police and arrested.
Later, to the chagrin of Muhtar Kent, Jeffrey Wright, a former Coke worker in Atlanta and a resident of Georgia, asked a question about the treatment of Coke workers in Colombia. Jeffrey wrote a book, "What Coca-Cola Did to Keep the Union from Coming in." (Learn more about Jeffrey's book)
Jeffrey's Video Comments:
Dr. Betty Martini, a resident of Georgia, has been exposing the dangers of the artificial sweetener, aspartame. Betty wanted to know why Coke still used aspartame, when it is known that the sweetener is dangerous to one's health.
Betty's statement and question:
Dianne Mathiowitz, another resident of Georgia and a member of United Autoworkers, AFL-CIO made a statement about the disconnect between the Company's position and what credible people are raising concerning serious labor, human rights and environmental abuse issues. She noted that her own union is committed to become Coke-Free.
Video of Dianne:
And John Stewart of Corporate Accountability International's Think Outside the Bottle Campaign discussed the demand to label the source of Dasani bottled water and report on the health and quality of its water as public water sources must do.
Video of John Stewart:
The Use of Child Labor in Coke's Supply Chain
Before I cast my vote for election of directors, I want to know if the board and particularly Herbert Allen, Howard Buffett, Barry Diller, Donald Keough, James Williams and you, Mr. Kent, who beneficially and collectively own shares worth billions of dollars, are going to allow The Coca-Cola Company to continue to benefit from what is described as one of the most hazardous, cruel and worst forms of child labor...
Ernst & Young's Massive Accounting Fraud?
The New York Times reported in December that New York attorney general Andrew Cuomo, who is now governor, sued Ernst & Young, accusing the firm of helping Lehman Brothers " 'engage in a massive accounting fraud' by misleading investors about the investment bank's financial health..."
It's irresponsible that nowhere in Coke's financial statements is there any mention of billions of dollars in potential liabilities that Coca-Cola is currently facing...
Ernst & Young: What is the Cost to Coke of Ongoing Protests?
Has anyone at Ernst & Young or at Coca-Cola been calculating how much Coke has been losing in revenues and brand value since the company refuses to adequately address festering and growing allegations of labor, human rights and environmental abuses?...
What are Coke's Responses to Charges in "The Coke Machine"
Has anyone on the board read "The Coke Machine: The Dirty Truth Behind the World's Favorite Soft Drink" by Michael Blanding published last September? How does the Board react to charges made in the book that Coca-Cola has systematically torpedoed health, labor and environmental standards internationally...
Waste Water Pollution in Nairobi, Kenya
Since a group of angry residents of Nairobi, Kenya, led by a local businessman, could not be here, we want to raise some concerns, which they recently communicated to us at the Campaign to Stop Killer Coke, in a series of emails. Let me just quote the core of their emails:
"I have just discovered your website and the campaign against Coca-Cola. I live near the main Coca-Cola bottling plant in Nairobi, Kenya. For some time I have been intrigued to know why the plant produces so much noxious liquid effluent that is really making our lives unbearable. Now I know why. Coca-Cola bottling plants are great polluters...
"DIFFERENT VERSIONS OF REALITY BUBBLE UP AT COCA-COLA'S ANNUAL MEETING"
SaportaReport, Atlanta Business Chronicle, April 27, 2011
"Several out-spoken shareholders accused the company of a myriad of crimes — murder, rape, union-busting, unethical business practices — in various countries, including Colombia, Guatemala and even the United States.
"The activist shareholders ignored the two-minute rule and every other company-imposed rules of the meetings so they could [get] their messages across. One of the perennial angry shareholders — Ray Rogers — engaged in a shouting match that culminated with him telling Kent: 'You are a liar. You are a liar.'
"Then some shareholders started questioning the company's practices on health-related and environmental issues. What kind of water Coca-Cola puts in its Dasani plastic bottles. The possibly harmful use of BPA that is used inside the lining of its canned drink products. The medical consequences of using aspartame in its diet drinks."
Mobile billboard in Atlanta for the 2011 Coke annual meeting
On April 27, at the annual meeting, Lew Friedman raised the issue of a pending lawsuit against The Coca-Cola Company because of a campaign of violence in Guatemala — including rape, murder, and attempted murder — against union leaders and their families.
In response, Coke's CEO Muhtar Kent stated: "In November 2010...the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York denied jurisdiction and dismissed that case and the plaintiffs actually did not appeal the decision.'
Plaintiff attorney Terry Collingsworth wrote the following on April 29:
"As usual, Coke is not telling the truth. When the federal district court dismissed, it did so because it found, incorrectly, that Guatemala was a superior forum (Yes, the place where you can murder trade unionists). Because appealing these initial decisions is a real long shot, we went to Guatemala, filed the case, and argued there that the court should not accept jurisdiction because the Guatemalan plaintiffs chose the US courts because it was safer for them and that they had better legal remedies.
"The Guatemalan court then declined jurisdiction and sent us back to New York. The hearing I had to attend on Monday April 25 was an initial hearing before judge Sullivan that we were making a motion to reinstate the case in NYC. Coke of course argued that the case should not be reinstated because we did not appeal the Guatemalan court's denial in Guatemala, and our position is that we are not permitted to appeal this type of ruling in Guatemala. So we will now make a formal motion to the court. With the record that we tried to file in Guatemala and the court declined to take it, we will have a very good appeal issue should the judge still decline to take it."
The Campaign to Stop Killer Coke has been contacted by two groups in The Philippines. First, we were contacted by a group of Coke workers who have documented Coke's labor abuses and corruption in the workplace. Their website, which is discussed below is http://www.wix.com/albukarki/cocacolainthephilippines. The other group, Batang Negros, is involved in a province-wide boycott of Coca-Cola because of the company's smuggling and tax evasion schemes which is destroying the local economy, local jobs and local businesses. We put the groups in touch with each other and Batang Negros responded:
"I already talked with the head of the group and he is very optimistic to the alliance between your group and our group here...we are just about to launch our Internet campaign but we have also prepared for ground mobilization."
"Coke's Crimes in The Philippines": http://www.killercoke.org/crimes_philippines.php
Facebook page for "Coke-Free Negros": http://www.facebook.com/pages/Coke-FREE-Negros/231682936848525
Facebook Page for "Coke-FREE Establishments": http://www.facebook.com/notes/batang-negros/coke-free-establishments/106331036126806.
"Negros folks press Coca-Cola to use local sugar [instead of smuggled sugar]"
By Carla P. Gomes, Inquirer Visayas, June 22, 2011
"About 4,000 Negrenses staged a protest in front of the Coca Cola Bottlers Philippines Inc. bottling plant in Barangay (village) Mansilingan, Bacolod City, Wednesday morning to protest the company's use of imported [smuggled] instead of locally grown sugar."
"I live near the main Coca-Cola bottling plant in Nairobi, Kenya. For some time I have been intrigued to know why the plant produces so much noxious liquid effluent that is really making our lives unbearable. Now I know why. Coca-Cola bottling plants are great polluters."
Coke's Crimes in Kenya: http://www.killercoke.org/crimes_kenya.php
In 2008, I received the anonymous letter signed by "Very Concerned" along with the Coca-Cola accident report named "Vehicle Accident Report Killing 10 Children." I noticed at the end of the report that a press release was prepared "to release to 3 friendly media houses." I wondered if this was Coke's way of doing damage control. Were there any independent investigations into the accident? What were the results of these investigations? How were the families compensated for their losses?
Coke's Crimes in Tanzania: http://www.killercoke.org/crimes_tanzania.php
The following article appearing in the June 2011 edition of District Council 37's Public Employee Press was sent out to 150,000 active and retired members of AFSCME District Council 37 and distributed in various government agencies. An error in the article states "Students have convinced over 20 universities to ban Coke from their campuses". That should have read: "Students have convinced some 60 universities to ban Coke from their campuses."
"Unthinkable, Undrinkable; Death squad charges set off Coke Boycott" by Jane LaTour, AFSCME District Council 37
"The Coca-Cola Co. projects an image of fun, energy and excitement, with its fiery red trucks and red-shirted drivers. For years, its TV commercials sold its nutrition-free drinks with the slogan, 'Coke adds life.' But Coke plants in Latin America have repeatedly been charged with using paramilitary death squads to kill union members and organizers, and a boycott movement is spreading among colleges and unions in the United States."
In January, Public Employee Press reported that DC 37's 18,000 member Clerical-Administrative Employees Local 1549 voted to stop serving Coke products.
DC 37 AFSCME Local 2627 President Robert Ajaye discusses the Campaign to Stop Killer Coke at about one minute into this video.
Local 2627 has more than 4,200 members who work in computer titles in all City agencies.Watch the Video
Bill Schleicher, editor of Public Employee Press, made a motion at the June meeting of the Metro New York Labor Communications Council to stop serving Coke beverages at the Council's meetings. The motion passed at this meeting of New York's top labor journalists.
7. Hagens Berman LLP Announces Investigations of The Coca-Cola Company & SunTrust Banks, the Bank of Killer Coke
Stockhouse, Jun 16, 2011
"Hagens Berman today announced that it is investigating potential claims against Coca-Cola (NYSE: KO) after the company allegedly made substantive changes to its employee pension plan, actions which may violate federal law....
"Hagens Berman is investigating whether Coca-Cola fully disclosed the possible disadvantages of the new plan to its employees.
"Hagens Berman is interested in talking to employees or former employees of Coca-Cola who feel that the company did not fully disclose the risks associated with the transition to a cash balance plan.
"Employees can contact the Hagens Berman legal team via email at Coca-Cola@hbsslaw.com. Consumers can also contact the firm by calling (206) 623-7292. Additional information is available at www.hbsslaw.com/Coca-Cola."
Hagens Berman has also instigated a similar investigation of SunTrust Banks.
Campaign to Stop Killer Coke received the following communique from a group, concerned with freedom of the press and editorial integrity.
Think Outside the Box is a Romanian online magazine eco-oriented that was hosted in the last 5 months on the website of the biggest newspaper in our country, Adevarul (The Truth). Because Coca Cola recently celebrated 125 years, we, TOTB, decided to publish a few articles about "the dark side" of Coca Cola and their products.
The articles were mostly based on well-known medical and historical facts provided by reliable sources like BBC and The Guardian. One of the articles, "Cola, children's favourite drug", written by Dan Sociu and presented as his personal opinion, contained some harsh words about the parents who allow their children to drink caffeinated sodas. After this text was published, the fifth of TOTB's series of articles on this matter, Friday, 6 May, without any warning, Adevarul took our magazine off their website. The explanation that they gave us, during the telephone conversation that we had with them, was that we "attacked an important brand".
We consider this to be a serious violation of the freedom of press and the saddest thing is that the violation is encouraged by a prestigious newspaper.
The last FreeEx report shows that Romanian journalism is placed in the last position among EU member states for the freedom of the press, one of the reasons being the intrusions of the large companies on editorial decisions.
Campaign Director Ray Rogers supplied them with the following statement of solidarity:
"The Coca-Cola Company spends billions of dollars each year in advertising to promote a false wholesome image and to deceive consumers about its worldwide labor, human rights, environmental abuses and aggressive marketing to children of unhealthy beverages. Because of Coke's advertising monies, the press, from The New York Times to Adevarul, will not permit journalistic integrity to get in the way of profits.
Finally, we received a follow-up email stating:
"Today, Adevarul announced that they were blackmailed by Coca Cola and broke the contract with them; the chief editor resigned; they were not fair at all, they closed our website in the same day when they published a "red" edition of their newspaper, the anniversary one bought by Coca Cola, but now all the dirty details are out for the public; it's a good day for the freedom of the press in Romania."
Adevarul, "UPDATE Bogdan Enoiu, Director General BV McCann Erickson: Ne cerem scuze pentru situa?ia creat?, May 10, 2011
("UPDATE Enoiu Bogdan, General Manager BV McCann Erickson: We apologize for the situation")