An investment fund is taking issue with Coca-Cola's pay plan for management, saying it's particularly excessive in light of the beverage maker's slowing growth.
In a letter to Coca-Cola board members, Wintergreen Advisers CEO Dave Winters noted that Coca-Cola's equity plan for 2014 would transfer roughly $13 billion in shares at the current stock prices to management over the next four years according to his calculations.
He sent a similar letter to billionaire investor Warren Buffett, urging the longtime Coca-Cola shareholder to vote against the plan in April.
Coca-Cola Co., however, said the comments by Winters were "misinformed." The Atlanta-based company noted in the plan is consistent with its past practices and that management would have to meet certain performance targets to earn the full amount outlined.
It also noted that the plan covers about 6,400 employees.
As for Wintergreen's point that the plan would dilute existing shares by 14.2 percent, Coca-Cola said that ignored the fact that the company buys back "significantly more stock than what is related to grants under our equity plan."
In a phone interview, Winters said the buybacks were put in place to benefit shareholders, not to cover pay for management. When asked about what type of response he'd gotten from Coca-Cola about this letter, Winters said, "They want their money."
Wintergreen Advisers, based in Milwaukee, owned about 2.5 million shares of Coca-Cola, according to a February regulatory filing. That is a stake of less than 1 percent.
Coca-Cola's plan was filed March 7 with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Shareholders will vote on the plan at the annual meeting slated for April 23.