A prominent Washington attorney is pushing back against Coca-Cola’s recent efforts to prod the law firms it deals with to increase diversity.
C. Boyden Gray, a former ambassador to the European Union and counsel to president George H.W. Bush, is objecting to an initiative by Bradley Gayton, Coca-Cola’s former general counsel. In a letter early this year, Gayton warned several dozen law firms by that they would have to meet specific, numeric targets for Blacks and other minorities among the attorneys on their payrolls, if they wished to do business with Coca-Cola.
Gayton was replaced in his position in April 21, after working for Coca-Cola less than a year. Gray wrote April 27 to Monica Howard Douglas, Gayton’s successor, claiming that Gayton’s initiative is illegal.
“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,” Gray wrote. “Racial discrimination should have no place in private contracting, and Coca-Cola should act swiftly to publicly undo this destructive legacy of Mr. Gayton’s tenure.”
Coca-Cola has been having trouble lately finding its way through racial issues. The company faced criticism for initially tepid opposition to voter eligibility laws in its home state of Georgia that were widely seen as discriminatory against Black voters. When it strengthened that opposition, it was met with a backlash from conservative politicians and journalists.