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U.S. subpoenas Burger King in probe of alleged Coca-Cola fraud

MIAMI — MIAMI - Burger King Corp., the second-largest U.S. hamburger chain, said yesterday that it has been subpoenaed by a federal grand jury investigating Coca-Cola Co. for possible accounting fraud.

Burger King will comply with the subpoena seeking records relating to a rigged marketing test for Frozen Coke in March 2000, said Rob Doughty, a spokesman for the Miami-based hamburger chain.

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Coca-Cola, the world's largest soft-drink maker, said last week that it had settled a dispute with Burger King, retaining the company as a customer.

The rigged test was disclosed by Matthew Whitley, former director of finance for Coca-Cola's fountain division, in wrongful-termination lawsuits in which he alleged that the company inflated its sales and profits.

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"It would say to me that it appears they are investigating the allegations made by the former employee to determine whether they can be corroborated and to what extent they might be," said Buddy Parker, a former assistant U.S. attorney in Atlanta.

Coca-Cola spokesman Dan Schafer declined to comment beyond a company statement last month that said the soft-drink maker is cooperating with the investigation. U.S. attorney spokesman Patrick Crosby also has declined to comment.

Shares of Atlanta-based Coca-Cola fell 26 cents to close at $44.10 in trading yesterday on the New York Stock Exchange.

Burger King, which trails McDonald's Corp. in sales, is owned by the closely held investment firm Texas Pacific Group, based in Fort Worth, Texas.


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