The Coca-Cola Company Case 06/02/2003
According to a press release dated July 7, 2008, soft-drink giant Coca-Cola Co. has agreed to pay $137.5 million to settle a nearly eight-year-long class action shareholder lawsuit. In an agreement signed on June 26 and filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia on July 3, Judge Willis B. Hunt Jr. preliminarily approved the settlement of the investor lawsuit, which alleged that in the late 1990s executives of the world’s largest beverage maker violated federal securities law by engaging in a scheme to hide falling profits from investors. … By approving the settlement agreement, Judge Hunt rejected the report and recommendation made by a special master in February to deny class certification completely. … A final settlement fairness hearing is scheduled for Oct. 20.
As summarized by the Company’s FORM 10-K for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2007, on January 8, 2001, an order was entered by the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia consolidating the two [largely identical] cases for all purposes. The Court also ordered the plaintiffs to file a Consolidated Amended Complaint. On July 25, 2001, the plaintiffs filed a Consolidated Amended Complaint, which largely repeated the allegations made in the original complaints and added Douglas N. Daft as an additional defendant. On September 25, 2001, the defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss all counts of the Consolidated Amended Complaint. On August 20, 2002, the Court granted in part and denied in part the defendants’ Motion to Dismiss. The Court also granted the plaintiffs’ Motion for Leave to Amend the Complaint. On September 4, 2002, the defendants filed a Motion for Partial Reconsideration of the Court’s August 20, 2002 ruling. The motion was denied by the Court on April 15, 2003. On June 2, 2003, the plaintiffs filed an Amended Consolidated Complaint. The defendants moved to dismiss the Amended Complaint on June 30, 2003. On March 31, 2004, the Court granted in part and denied in part the defendants’ Motion to Dismiss the Amended Complaint. In its order, the Court dismissed a number of the plaintiffs’ allegations, including the claim that the Company made knowingly false statements to financial analysts. The Court permitted the remainder of the allegations to proceed to discovery. The Court denied the plaintiffs’ request for leave to further amend and replead their complaint. The fact discovery closed on March 23, 2007, pursuant to the Court’s order. However, there remain certain unresolved issues relating to discovery pending before the Court. In August 2007, the Court heard oral argument on plaintiffs’ motion to certify the class and the Company’s opposition thereto. A ruling on that motion is currently pending before the Court. In October 2007, the Company filed various motions for summary judgment and related relief. Briefing on the Company’s motions is ongoing.
The original class action charges Coke and certain of its officers and directors with violations of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, by issuing a series of false and misleading statements between October 21, 1999 and March 6, 2000. Specifically, Coke reported misleading financial results, falsely presented its flat gallonage shipments of concentrate to bottlers during 99 as a positive development, represented that improving the financial condition of those bottlers and had set the stage for substantial revenue growth by Coke as consumer demand for its products had picked up in late 99 and early 00, and forecast 4thQ 99 EPS of $.30-$.31, 99 EPS of $1.29-$1.31, 00 EPS of $1.50-$1.60 and 01 EPS of $1.75+.As a result of Coke’s statements, Coke’s stock recovered sharply from its early 10/99 low of $47-5/16 to as high as $69 on 12/3/99, a huge increase in Coke’s stock price in about 90 days, which restored over $52 billion in Coke stockholder market capitalization. Then, on 3/7/00, Bloomberg reported that, based on the revelations of the past several weeks and continuing conversations with Coke executives, analysts had concluded that Coke would not be able to achieve a return to its historic 8+% and 15%-20% revenue and EPS growth at any time in the foreseeable future. Coke’s stock fell to just $44-13/16 on 3/7/00, its lowest price in years.