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Coca-Cola Co. president Steve Heyer said he never received a former finance manager’s memo detailing allegations of massive fraud at the beverage giant only a month before the manager was fired. Coke made the claim Wednesday in a court filing responding to a lawsuit filed by whistleblower Matthew Whitley. His allegations have led to a criminal investigation of Coke by federal prosecutors and an inquiry by the Securities and Exchange Commission. A state judge last week dismissed more than half of Whitley’s claims, including allegations that the world’s largest beverage maker sought to hide fraud. But the judge ruled that his lawsuit may continue. The wrongful termination suit accuses Atlanta-based Coke of rigging a marketing test to inflate the popularity of Frozen Coke at Virginia Burger King restaurants. Coke has admitted undermining the test, and said it disciplined employees involved in the test. Whitley was laid off a month after he says he sent the memo to Heyer and five days after he sent it to Coke general counsel Deval Patrick. Coke has insisted Whitley was laid off as part of a corporate restructuring. In the company’s response, Heyer said he “has no recollection” of receiving Whitley’s memorandum in February, when Heyer was out of town on business. Coke also says there is no evidence Heyer forwarded Whitley’s memo to others. The company also says Patrick didn’t read Whitley’s e-mail memo until he returned from vacation on March 26, the day Whitley was fired. Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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