Coca-Cola Co. Names former Judge Counselor and Special Advisor

Jan. 7, 2021

Coca-Cola Co. has hired a former federal judge with strong connections to government to advise the beverage giant on its tax fight with the IRS, which says it owes most of a $3.4 billion tax bill.

ATLANTA, Jan. 6, 2021 – The Coca-Cola Company named J. Michael Luttig, former U.S. federal judge and general counsel for The Boeing Co., to serve as counselor and special advisor to the company and its board of directors.

Judge Luttig will advise the company and its board of directors on tax matters, with particular focus on the company’s ongoing litigation with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service. The company intends to vigorously defend its position and consider all avenues, including appealing any ultimate decision.

Judge Luttig served on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit for 15 years, from 1991 to 2006. He is one of the most distinguished judges to serve on the Federal Bench and is recognized as one of the finest legal minds in the country.

“As a former federal judge, longtime corporate general counsel, and U.S. Department of Justice and White House official, Judge Luttig has unrivaled experience with complex legal matters,” said James Quincey, chairman and CEO of The Coca-Cola Company. “Judge Luttig will provide counsel to our company as we continue to vigorously defend our position in the litigation with the Internal Revenue Service. His perspective will be invaluable on the company’s pending tax matter.”

Judge Luttig said, “I am honored to advise The Coca-Cola Company, an American icon.”

Judge Luttig provided the following statement with respect to the company’s tax case with the IRS:

  • “American companies cannot run their businesses with the uncertainty of the retroactive application of newly minted IRS tax policies to prior tax years that are contrary to the IRS' own previously approved policies and then be required to pay billions of dollars in unanticipated increased taxes that result from the retroactive application of these new tax policies.
  • “For 20 years, The Coca-Cola Company reported U.S. taxable income from its non-U.S. operations under a methodology agreed to by the IRS and repeatedly audited and approved by the IRS. In an abrupt departure from its established position long after the tax years in question, the IRS reversed its position, disapproved that approved methodology, required a new tax calculation methodology, and now seeks to impose a retroactive tax increase on the company for past tax years.
  • • “I would expect the federal courts to appreciate the inappropriateness of the IRS’ new methodology for calculating The Coca-Cola Company’s taxes, in addition to the fundamental unfairness of the IRS’ belated demand that the company retroactively pay billions of dollars in taxes beyond those calculated and paid by the company in accordance with IRS-approved tax methodology.”

Judge Luttig begins his engagement with Coca-Cola Jan. 6.

Luttig, 66, most recently served as counselor and senior advisor to the Boeing CEO and board of directors. Luttig served as Boeing’s general counsel from 2006 to 2019.

Luttig joined Boeing after 15 years on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. Before he was appointed to the federal bench by President George H.W. Bush, he served as assistant attorney general at the U.S. Department of Justice and counselor to the attorney general of the United States. He was assistant counsel to the President at The White House from 1981 to 1982 under President Ronald Reagan. From 1982 to 1983, he was a law clerk to then-Judge Antonin Scalia of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. From 1983 to 1985, he served as a law clerk and then special assistant to the chief justice of the United States.

A native of Texas, Luttig earned his bachelor of arts degree from Washington and Lee University and his law degree from the University of Virginia.