'Woke-a-Cola': Coke CEO becomes first target in activist shareholder's busy week

National Legal and Policy Center makes major push to get companies out of politics

Ethics watchdog and activist shareholder the National Legal and Policy Center is slated to speak to the boards of several major U.S. corporations this week, pushing a flurry of resolutions the group has proposed in an effort to persuade the companies to stay out of politics.

Their first target: Coca-Cola chairman and CEO James Quincey.

James Quincey Coca-Cola

Coca-Cola President and CEO James Quincey attends a press conference with International Olympic Committee (IOC) president and China Mengniu Dairy CEO and executive director in Lausanne, on June 24, 2019.  (FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images / Getty Images)

The NLPC floated a resolution that would require the role of board chairman to be an independent position, meaning that if it were approved, Quincey could not hold that position while serving as chief executive as he does at present.

In a presentation at Coke's annual shareholder meeting Tuesday morning, NLPC's Corporate Integrity Project director, Paul Chesser, argued that Quincey's "leadership has earned the company the mocking nickname, ‘Woke-a-Cola.’"


Chesser said Quincey "caved to progressive political activists" when he issued a statement condemning Georgia's election integrity law last year, and accused the CEO of hypocrisy for remaining silent while voter ID legislation moved through Parliament in his home country, the United Kingdom, in recent months. Chesser went on to criticize Quincey for a number of other moves Coca-Cola has made under his leadership.

"We see the overall board/CEO structure generally in the country as too cozy, and reluctant in too many cases to conduct real oversight of corporate management," Chesser told FOX Business. "Separating Chairs and CEOs is a first step to properly segregating these roles, but more should be done."


A Coca-Cola billboard is shown over left field at SunTrust Park during a baseball game between the Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File / AP Newsroom)

"Coca-Cola is the perfect example of this," Chesser continued. "James Quincey has not acted in the best interests of the company, its customers or its shareholders with his actions on the Georgia election law, employee critical race theory training, sponsoring the Communist Chinese Olympics, maintaining a factory in Xinjiang, and tolerating [Activision Blizzard CEO] Bobby Kotick’s presence on the board of directors — as just a few examples."

Coca-Cola did not immediately response to FOX Business' request for comment.

Coca-Cola's shareholders rejected the resolution, but the NLPC will present a similar proposal at the annual meetings of Goldman Sachs on Thursday and a third at the annual shareholder meeting for Berkshire Hathaway on Saturday.


The Berkshire resolution made headlines last week when the California Public Employees' Retirement System, known as Calpers – the largest pension fund in the U.S. – wrote in a filing that it supports NLPC's bid to disqualify Berkshire chairman and CEO Warren Buffett from serving in both roles simultaneously.

Warren Buffett

Berkshire Hathaway chairman and CEO Warren Buffett on September 19, 2017, in New York City. (Daniel Zuchnik/WireImage / Getty Images)

But that's not all the activist group is pushing for.

The NLPC has proposed resolutions urging several other companies to provide greater disclosure and itemization of their charitable contributions. 

"Corporations want to be ‘public’ to reap the benefits of that structure, but they usually don’t want the accountability," Chesser told FOX Business. "They also want the positive PR that comes from certain charitable donations, but don’t want the scrutiny on all of it — which is what we are asking for on behalf of all shareholders."


"Our position is corporations who give to charity should be proud of everything they donate and embarrassed about none of it," he explained. "If they are ashamed for any shareholder, customer or client to discover how much they gave and to whom, then why are they giving to them?"

The NLPC presented such resolutions at Bank of America's and Wells Fargo's respective annual shareholder meetings on Tuesday, and plan on making the same arguments to Johnson & Johnson on Thursday and Boeing on Friday.