The general counsel for The Coca-Cola Co. has been replaced, less than a year into his tenure – and less than four months after he sternly warned law firms wishing to work with Coca-Cola to diversify.
Bradley Gayton is being transitioned from general counsel to “strategic consultant,” Coca-Cola announced April 21. In-house counsel Monica Howard Douglas will be promoted to general counsel.
Gayton was hired Sept. 1. Early this year, he sent letters to several dozen law firms, telling them that if they wished to do business with Coca-Cola, they would need to meet specific numerical goals for diversity, and that “we will no longer celebrate good intentions or highly unproductive efforts” that don’t result in diverse staffing.
According to an SEC filing, Gayton will receive a “make-whole payment” of $4 million, and other fees and benefits that could potentially make the whole package worth $12 million.
“I, along with the company’s leadership team and the board of directors, thank Bradley for his service as our global general counsel,” Coca-Cola CEO James Quincey said in a statement. “I look forward to working with him in this new role.”
The move comes at an awkward time for Coca-Cola in terms of racial issues. The company faced criticism for what was seen as initially tepid opposition to voter eligibility laws in its home state of Georgia. When it strengthened that opposition, it was met with a backlash from conservative politicians and journalists.