With top lawyer out, Coke reviewing diversity mandate for law firms

ORIGINAL CAPTION: November 28, 2014 Atlanta - Picture shows Coca-Cola Company Headquarters in Atlanta on Friday, November 28, 2014. Coca-Cola reported $233 million in tax breaks in 2011-2013 - almost 15% of its federal tax bill - related to giving its management stock options and restricted stock. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Credit: Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com

Credit: Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com

Coca-Cola is contemplating whether to retain a diversity requirements for outside law firms and other initiatives set by now-former general counsel Bradley Gayton. The company announced this week that Gayton was leaving his post, but didn't say why. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Coca-Cola is reviewing a diversity policy announced only three months ago by its now former general counsel.

Bradley Gayton, who Coke said resigned this week after less than eight months in the post, unveiled requirements in January that applied to law firms doing work for the company in the United States. The policy required that at least 30% of billed associate and partner time for Coke be from people of color, women, LGBTQ+ individuals or people with disabilities. At least half was to be from Black attorneys.

Firms that didn’t comply would see their fees cut by 30% and potentially no longer be considered for Coke work, Gayton said at the time.

On Friday, Atlanta-based Coke declined to say whether Gayton’s earlier policy had been put into practice or whether it would continue.

“When there is a leadership change, it takes time for the new leader to review the current status of the team, organization and initiatives,” a company spokesman wrote in an email Thursday evening when asked about the policy.

Coke’s new general counsel, Monica Howard Douglas, “is fully committed to the notions of equity and diversity in the legal profession, and we fully expect she will take the time necessary to thoughtfully review any plans going forward,” the spokesman wrote.

Coke has not disclosed why Gayton, who had been Ford Motor Company’s top lawyer, is no longer the beverage giant’s general counsel. Coke said Gayton will be paid $12 million and serve as a consultant for the company for one year.

Many Fortune 500 companies pledged to aggressively address racial inequality in the wake of last year’s widespread Black Lives Matter protests.