Coca-Cola is also a member of the American Beverage Association, a Washington, D.C.based trade group for the nonalcoholic segment of the beverage industry that includes soft drink makers and their distributors, and last year Latham partners Brandt, Richard Bress, and William Rawson were on hand when the ABA filed suit against the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene over its approval of Bloomberg's big drink ban. Patricia Vaughan serves as general counsel and senior vice president of legal and regulatory affairs for the ABA, which in 2011 hired former McDermott Will & Emery partner Amy Hancock as its deputy general counsel. (Alston & Bird has handled lobbying work for the ABA, according to U.S. Senate records.)
"The decision by the [New York City] board of health to restrict the sale of sugar-sweetened beverages in packages or cups larger than 16 [ounces] is neither prudent nor helpful in the overall fight against obesity," said a joint statement released by the ABA from Hazel Dukes, president of the NAACP's New York chapter. "The ban will be ineffective in that it does not get to the root of the problem of obesity in New York or in the African American community."
While King & Spalding has a robust lobbying groupthe firm added former Texas congressman Michael Andrews to its practice in December and picked up British American Tobacco as a client the month beforeit has not been active on behalf of soft drink companies. (Public records show that Bacardi, the world's largest privately held spirits company, paid $70,000 to King & Spalding in 2012.)
Nonetheless, King & Spalding is no stranger to the U.S. soft drink industry.
Larry Thompson, a former King & Spalding partner who went on to serve as deputy attorney general at the U.S. Department of Justice a decade ago, returned to the general counsel role last year at Purchase, New Yorkbased Pepsico, the world's second-largest soft drink maker after Coca-Cola. (Pepsico was also the recipient of an image award by The Hispanic Federation.)
Coca-Cola has been a longtime King & Spalding client, and presented the firm with a diversity award in 2009. The firm has also represented Coca-Cola in litigation over Coke Zero, and handled a $137.5 million securities class action settlement for the company in 2008.
Coca-Cola also reportedly played a key role in getting King & Spalding to back out of its representation two years ago of the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives in defending a section of the Defense of Marriage Act which, for federal purposes, defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman. The decision by King & Spalding to quit the case resulted in its lead lawyer in the matter, former U.S. solicitor general Paul Clement, abruptly leaving the firm he had joined in 2008 to link up with Washington, D.C.based Bancroft, a firm known for its conservative credentials.
Given King & Spalding's strong connections to the beverage industry, it's unlikely the firm will face similar pressure to drop the cup on the NAACP and The Hispanic Federation in their fight against thirst-quenching tyranny.
Representing the city in the litigation is Michael Cardozo, a former chair of the sports law practice at Proskauer Rose who has served as Corporation Counsel for the City of New York since 2002, making him the longest-serving attorney in that position. Other attorneys from Cardozo's office representing the city are Robin Binder, Spencer Fisher, Jasmine Georges, Trevor Lippman, and Mark Muschenheim.
While the soda industry seeks to scuttle Bloomberg's prohibition on barrel-sized sugary beverages, it will continue to have to deal with similar initiatives that have sprung up elsewhere. This week Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick proposed a $34.8 billion state budget that includes new and increased sales taxes on soda, candy, and cigarettes. Patrick, who is married to a Ropes & Gray partner, was once general counsel for Coca-Cola.