pepsi coke gayton

Coca-Cola's General Counsel has abruptly left his role with rumours swirling that board members baulked at his radical diversity initiatives.

Bradley Gayton left Coke just eight months after joining the beverage giant, and mere weeks after he unveiled radical plans to improve the diversity of firms working for the company.

Gayton set out aggressive targets to increase the diversity of Coke's external legal advisors which required at least 30% of all hours billed on new Coke matters to be recorded by diverse lawyers (including female, LGBT and disabled staff), with half of those hours to be billed by black lawyers.

The stance was designed to motivate panel firms to improve diversity in their workplace, or alternatively to declare that all their associates were non-binary and swamp the sole black paralegal with Coke jobs.

“We will no longer celebrate good intentions or highly unproductive efforts that haven’t and aren’t likely to produce better diverse staffing,” Gayton wrote in his barnstorming call to arms

It looked like a win-win for pioneering Gayton, as firms had to agree to their fees being docked by a non-refundable 30% if they failed to meet his diversity targets for two quarters.

Firms acting for Coke including Cleary Gottlieb, Greenberg Traurig, Hogan Lovells, Proskauer, Skadden, and McDermott, Will & Emery are all understood to have supported his edict, although it would have been difficult to publicly oppose it given the poor optics of appearing to argue against diversity, and the importance of retaining Coke as a client.

But in a shock development, Gayton has suddenly stepped down, and the new GC, Monica Howard Douglas, has told the company's 180+ in-house lawyers that her predecessor's diversity policy would be "taking a pause for now". 

Mystery surrounds the exact reason Gayton departed, although rumours have circulated that neither the Coke board nor its shareholders were entirely comfortable taking such a prominent role in a highly politicised US culture war. 

“The mood now is: it’s a sigh of relief for the entire group, everyone in legal,” said a person at the company according to “He came in with all of these aggressive ideas, and they were just very unrealistic expectations. He didn’t want any feedback from the leaders who had been there”. 

Gayton declined to tell RollOnFriday why he quit, perhaps moved to silence by the astronomical sums he is being paid by Coke for a vaguely-defined "strategic consultant role" in which he will "drive certain key objectives" for one year.

More of a golden jet than a golden parachute, Gayton is picking up a $4 million lump sum to not be GC anymore, and $666,666.67 a month in consulting fees to work "a maximum” of 40 hours per month keeping quiet driving those key objectives.

Tip Off ROF


Boring Lawyer 30 April 21 13:58

It's a real shame if this is related to the panel firm diversity initiative.  Diversity in law is profoundly broken, and it'll only really change if bulk purchasers of legal services force it to.  

Anonymous 30 April 21 14:58

@boring lawyer. No coincidence that most of the big players in Scotland have hired more non white trainees. All privately educated mind you but still. Shep Wed has apparently had a hard time on some panels owing to their rep as an “pale, stale and male” operator. 

Merit is all that matters 30 April 21 15:41

Gayton's panel firm initiative was racist. His departure is welcome. As a warning letter to Coca Cola noted earlier this week:

The purpose of this letter is to alert the Coca-Cola Company that its new racial quota requirements for outside counsel are unlawful. We thus urge you to rescind the policy and to make sure that both you and the firms you hire fulfil your promise to "treat qualified minorities . . . without regard to their race/ ethnicity.

...discrimination is illegal. Since the Civil Rights Act of 1866 (codified at 42 U.S.C. § 1981), federal law has prohibited all forms of racial discrimination in private contracting. As the late Justice Ginsburg noted just last year,§ 1981 is a '"sweeping' law designed to 'break down all discrimination between black men and white men' regarding 'basic civil rights."' And decades of case law have held that-no matter how well intentioned- policies that seek to impose permanent racial balancing are prohibited. 

As the Reconstruction-era Congress understood, the legal tools of segregation are fundamentally corrupt; they poison all they touch. That these same tools may be used with the intent of achieving "parity" rather than exclusion is irrelevant. Racial quotas perpetuate the invidious racial classifications of Jim Crow, and they rely on the false, racist notion that blacks and other racial minorities are somehow unable to compete with members of other races. As Justice Thomas has written, "there is a moral and constitutional equivalence between laws designed to subjugate a race and those that distribute benefits on the basis of race in order to foster some current notion of equality."

The abrupt departure of Bradley Gayton after less than a year as General Counsel suggests that Coca-Cola is already aware that its racial quota requirements on outside firms are indefensible.

Gayton was the wrong side - the dishonest side - in a culture war. We should celebrate, not mourn, his defenestration: it sends a clear signal to other general counsel seeking to impose the views of a small, but loud political cult on the rest of Western society. As ever, the US is the crucible for many of these trends, and given the tendency of the UK & Europe to follow US political fashion ('when America catches a cold, the world sneezes', etc), firms must be careful. The current cri de cœur is over so-called "diversity".

See, for example, the attacks on Weiss just over two years ago, for promoting only white people:

More recently, two professors at Georgetown university were sacked, after expressing concern about black students' performance. No one disputed that black students were performing worse, it was just politically unacceptable to articulate this. and

Adjusting professional representation will only be achieved by underrepresented groups improving their performance. Anything less is the soft bigotry of low expectations:

SMcoll 30 April 21 21:41

Good riddance.  To arbitrarily impose a minimum quota for black lawyers' hours is racist.  Also, I wonder if he insisted other - specified - races be included too because I am fed up off seeing an increase in black representation in a given situation resulting in commentators saying 'Hooray, at last, inclusion'.  Unless there are only two races in the world - black and white - then, no, it's not.  

Fake Partner 01 May 21 00:14

Diversity in the US is all about 99% of the things in the US. Follow the money. The are thousands of groups in history that literally had zero fucking diversity and were pretty good at what they did. Google it. 

Heh 02 May 21 08:40

I hope companies that are majority-woman or majority-"BAME" have the same aim to improve the quotas of white males from poorer backgrounds?


Didn't think so. 

Fake Partner 02 May 21 12:32

Coke are giving Bradley Gayton a created non-job with pay that its completely detached from the job and reality.  These diversity hacks literally operate like the Mafia - "give me a no-show job that must be there or you know what will happen" - and will sue at the drop of a hat. Coke are so terrified of the monster that they  (and other large US companies) have created, that they have to pay the guy off to keep his mouth shut and not sue. You can guarantee that Gayton has signed a non-disparagement and NDA as part of his settlement agreement with Coke re: losing his job, and has agreed not to sue. Again, follow the money. 

Cynic 02 May 21 16:56

The worst thing about diversity and equity grifters like Gayton is that they actively undermine minorities. Many people observing this debacle will conclude:

1. Minorities are underrepresented because they are inherently incapable of performing competently, and therefore need affirmative action; and

2. Such people are untouchable, however poorly they perform, because they if they don’t get whatever they demand, they can simply play the race card, bring down a Twitter mob onto their employer, and launch meritless discrimination claims. Only the threat of doing this can explain Gayton’s 8-figure overall payout. The logical conclusion to draw is: don’t roll the dice by hiring minority candidates.

Gayton played Coke for the mugs that they clearly are. Other employers should observe and learn.

MeghamM 05 May 21 07:59

"required at least 30% of all hours billed on new Coke matters to be recorded by diverse lawyers (including female, LGBT and disabled staff), with half of those hours to be billed by black lawyers."

Clearly pushed for not being ambitious enough.

It should have been 100%. 30% is SO 2018.

Related News