Soda Giants Coke, Pepsi Play Nice

pepsi coke coca cola
CBS/AP
Coca-Cola and Pepsi are usually bitter enemies, but when PepsiCo Inc. got a letter offering to sell Coke trade secrets, it went straight to its corporate rival.

Six weeks later, three people face federal charges of stealing confidential information, including a sample of a new drink, from The Coca-Cola Co. and trying to sell it to PepsiCo Inc.

"Competition can sometimes be fierce, but also must be fair and legal," Pepsi spokesman Dave DeCecco said. "We're pleased the authorities and the FBI have identified the people responsible for this."

The arrests happened Wednesday — the day a $1.5 million transaction was to occur — when the Feds set up a sting. An undercover agent posing as a Pepsi spy says one of the suspected Coke thieves handed him an Armani bag containing the cola sample and documents, in exchange for a Girl Scout cookie box stuffed with cash, CBS News correspondent Jim Acosta reports.

Those arrested include a Coke executive's administrative assistant who is accused of rifling through corporate files and pilfering information about a beverage that's so new it's still in the research phase, CBS News affiliate WGCL reports from Atlanta.

Joya Williams, 41, of Norcross, Ga., 30-year-old Ibrahim Dimson of New York and 43-year-old Edmund Duhaney of Decatur, Ga., were charged with wire fraud and unlawfully stealing and selling Coke trade secrets, federal prosecutors said.

They were expected to appear before a federal magistrate judge on Thursday in Atlanta, where Coca-Cola is based.

Coke thanked Pepsi for its assistance.

Chief executive Neville Isdell said in a memo to employees Wednesday that the company is cooperating with federal authorities.

"Sadly, today's arrests include an individual within our company," Isdell wrote. "While this breach of trust is difficult for all of us to accept, it underscores the responsibility we each have to be vigilant in protecting our trade secrets. Information is the lifeblood of the company."

He said Coke will review its information-protection policies, procedures and practices to make sure it safeguards intellectual property. Coke spokesman Ben Deutsch said the formula for trademark Coca-Cola was not stolen in the theft.

According to prosecutors, on May 19, Purchase, N.Y.,-based PepsiCo provided Coke with a copy of a letter mailed to PepsiCo in an official Coca-Cola business envelope.