NLPC Tells Coca-Cola CEO: Stay Out of Political Issues That Divide

This morning, National Legal and Policy Center presented a proposal at The Coca-Cola Company‘s annual shareholder meeting that asks the board to implement a policy to require the Chair of the Board of Directors to be an independent member from the CEO. In other words, the same executive could not hold both roles.

Currently James Quincey (pictured above) is Chairman and CEO.

Coca-Cola’s board of directors opposed our proposal, as explained on page 111 of the company’s proxy statement. NLPC’s response to the board’s opposition statement was filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission earlier this month.

Speaking at the meeting as sponsor of the resolution was Paul Chesser, director of NLPC’s Corporate Integrity Project. A transcript of his three-minute remarks, which you can listen to here, follows:

Good morning.


After I delivered my remarks last year in support of this same proposal for Coca-Cola, Mr. Quincey said something along the lines of, “Well, I can see why Mr. Chesser doesn’t want to see ME as Chairman and CEO…,” – and then he defended the company’s policy to keep the Chair and CEO positions unified.


It’s true that I was critical of some of Mr. Quincey’s decisions in both roles; It’s nothing personal.


The reason we bring this proposal again is because we truly believe, and that the majority of evidence shows, that having a separate Chair and CEO delivers a far better leadership structure in terms of accountability via checks and balances.


The current structure is a systemic problem, not one of personalities or of leaders’ integrity.


Often when there’s a concentration of power in one individual, he or she is more prone to misjudgments and miscalculations that can prove costly to the enterprise he or she leads.


The Board argues that the Company’s Lead Independent Director provides “robust” accountability.


We really don’t see that as the case, as we explain in our Notice of Exempt Solicitation report that we filed at the SEC for Coca-Cola.


So in my remaining time, I’d just like to say, if nothing else, I hope Mr. Quincey has learned some things since my presentation last year.


One of his statements that I had challenged last year was his inappropriate characterization of the Georgia Election Integrity Law, under the banner of Coca-Cola.


He said at the time, “The Coca-Cola Company does not support this legislation, as it makes it harder for people to vote, not easier.”


I hope the 2022 election in Georgia was instructive for Mr. Quincey to not let his rhetoric to get ahead of facts.


Because as it turned out, there was high turnout across the board in the Peach State.


General election turnout mirrored a national trend of being only slightly below 2018’s record-high turnout.


And participation in the special runoff election was extremely strong.


So we ask Mr. Quincey to be more measured about making political statements in the name of The Coca-Cola Company in the future, lest he again risk its reputation.


We also hope he sees comparative geopolitical issues differently from the time when he imposed racial sensitivity training on Coca-Cola employees, which included a class that taught that white people in America are socialized to believe they are “inherently superior,” and suggested they “try to be less white” by being “less oppressive.”


We hope since then that Mr. Quincey has re-examined such practices in light of the hypocrisy of Coca-Cola doing such extensive business in China, where the U.S. State Department reported this year that the communist nation is still engaged in ghastly practices like slavery, organ harvesting and genocide.


If Mr. Quincey wants to express moral outrage in the name of Coca-Cola, then China is the perfect opportunity to do so, and no one will be upset other than Chairman Xi.

Read NLPC’s shareholder proposal for the The Coca-Cola Company’s annual meeting here.

Listen to Chesser’s three-minute remarks in support of the proposal here.

Read NLPC’s response, filed with the SEC, to the Coca-Cola board’s opposition to our shareholder proposal here.

In another report filed at the SEC, NLPC also opposed a proposal for Coca-Cola on “restricting reproductive rights” brought forth by pro-abortion activists. You can read NLPC’s report on that proposal here.




Tags: abortion, Coca-Cola, James Quincey, Maria Elena Lagomasino, shareholder activism, woke corporations