Who says business is boring? Take the recent cloak-and-dagger story starring Coca-Cola
It all began when employees at Pepsi received an envelope, mailed from the Bronx, promising to deliver unto them some secret materials from Coke. When a response was proffered, the mole, who referred to himself as "Dirk," reportedly went straight to the point. He expected to be well paid for his misdeeds, and he needed earnest money up front, writing via email:
"I must see some type of seriousness on there [sic.] part, if I'm to maintain the faith to continue with you guys, or if I need to look towards another entity that will be interested in a relationship with me.... If the good faith moneys [sic.] is in my account by Monday, that will be an indication of your seriousness."
(Note to aspiring Dirks out there: Details matter. When you're pretending to be a high-level executive, it's not enough to parrot vile corporate jargon like "relationship" and "entity" and "serious partner." If you want to establish your bona fides, you ought to learn the difference between an adverb and a possessive pronoun, and work on that subject-verb agreement, too.)
When the response came, according to the allegations, Dirk set about procuring some papers as well as a product sample, via an accomplice who did work at Coke, and stuffed the pilfered materials into bags. Dirk set up a drop with a buyer at the Atlanta airport, where he swapped documents and the product sample for $30,000 in cash, concealed in a Girl Scout cookie box. (No word on whether or not the money made it into the freezer.)
Unfortunately for Dirk, the buyer wasn't a greedy Pepsi exec, but an undercover FBI agent. The agent then arranged to buy the rest of the material for $1.5 million, but when the day came for that deal, the Feds came with handcuffs instead of hundred-dollar bills. In fact, they'd been onto him from the beginning, since Pepsi had sent the original letter straight to Coke, who'd then contacted the FBI. (The full release from the Department of Justice is here.)
Corporate America, what a long way we've come.
In another time -- about the time of bowler hats, Smeckler's Powder, and car horns that went "aaah-Oooo-ga" -- Pepsi might have been all too happy to take Dirk up on his offer. Of course, in that time, Coke might later have hired goons with names like Knuckles to help Dirk slip on a nice pair of size 11 overshoes -- something in a Portland cement, perhaps -- before taking him for an evening stroll on the docks at Locust Point.
But in today's more genteel times, Pepsi did the honorable thing. Of course, we can't ignore the fact that doing the right thing also meant doing the smart thing. Let's face it, Pepsi has been doing just fine on its own, and doesn't seem to need to follow in Coke's footsteps. If they were going to swipe anything, they'd be smarter to take offers from potential moles at Hansen Natural
Still, Pepsi shareholders ought to give props to management for taking the high road. Incidents from the not-so-distant past -- where Boeing
Seth Jayson is willing to sell Fool co-founder Tom Gardner's hat size for the low low price of $5. Bidding for Bill Mann's stoutness regimen starts at $100. At the time of publication, he had no positions in any company mentioned here. View his stock holdings and Fool profile here. Fool rules are here.