John has more than 25 years of broad-based experience as a trial lawyer in private practice and as in-house litigation and compliance counsel. He focuses his practice on internal and government investigations, including Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) investigations, corporate compliance, business litigation, class action and complex litigation, bankruptcy and creditors’ rights, receiverships, workplace fairness and inclusion consulting. He has practiced as chief litigation counsel, global anti-bribery counsel and global head of diversity and workplace fairness.
Before returning to private practice, John held roles of increasing responsibility for 14 years with The Coca-Cola Company at its global headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. For five years, he was head of global litigation. As chief litigation counsel, he defended company directors and officers in shareholder derivative cases and advised senior management on all aspects of legal-risk management strategy. He led interviews, defended depositions and managed alternative dispute resolution in class actions, multidistrict litigation and related proceedings. In addition, he led the single largest potential litigation exposure in the history of the company: a putative securities class action lawsuit that touched four continents resolved on terms favorable to the company.
John led internal and governmental investigations into some of the earliest Sarbanes-Oxley whistleblower claims. He was tapped to serve as Coca-Cola’s first global anti-bribery counsel responsible for the company’s compliance with FCPA, the UK Bribery Act and similar anti-corruption laws worldwide. He led in-person training, audits and investigations in Asia, Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America, including compliance-related due diligence in international M&A transactions. He also personally advised and updated the board audit committee on such matters.
Following a decade in Coca-Cola’s legal function, John joined the company's global human resources team as the company’s global chief diversity officer, where he had board-level accountability for all aspects of workplace fairness, including responses to EEOC charges and OFCCP inquiries, as well as related media and reputational concerns. John served as the voice and face of diversity and inclusion at Coca-Cola, interacting with external constituents, community leaders, insurance carriers, institutional investors and the landscape of workplace, marketplace, customers and partners. Because of the breadth and depth of his experience, John brings a unique perspective to confidential litigation assessments, corporate diversity compliance reviews, internal legal vulnerability assessments, and helping clients develop best-practice benchmarking.
John currently serves as a Panel Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Trustee for the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Atlanta Division, and also served as a Panel Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Trustee in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Missouri for eight years. He has also served as a court-appointed receiver in complex business disputes.
John’s background enables him to bring solutions-based perspectives to his clients, drawing on a range of legal disciplines and a proven track record of success working not just with lawyers but with business leaders in public affairs, communications, government relations, regulatory affairs and community stakeholders.
Led compliance with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and related anti-corruption laws and regulations for a Fortune 100 company, personally conducting training, audits and investigations throughout sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Latin America.
Led legal team managing all aspects of one of the largest securities class action cases ever concluded in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia.
Defended shareholder derivative lawsuits and led internal and governmental investigations, working directly with senior management and board all to successful outcome.
Has represented debtors, creditors, avoidance defendants, lessors, asset purchasers, trustees and other parties in both business and consumer cases across the country.
First-chaired dozens of trials and contested evidentiary hearings in bankruptcy courts.
As in-house litigation counsel for The Coca-Cola Company, created a profit center of bankruptcy matters by strategic participation on unsecured creditors' committees and creating aggressive claims management processes, improving Company's bankruptcy-related recoveries to more than $10 million in a five-year period. As a result, was promoted to global head of litigation within four years of joining the company.
Previously served on the Official Unsecured Creditors' committees of Delta Airlines, Schlotzsky's Deli and Piccadilly Cafeterias, among others.
As an Honors Attorney in the U.S. Justice Department, Office of the U.S. Trustee, managed a docket of more than 200 active Chapter 11 cases from 341 meeting through plan confirmation, appearing regularly in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Maryland.
Previously certified Consumer Bankruptcy Expert and Business Bankruptcy Expert by the American Board of Certification, a component of the American Bankruptcy Institute (expiration in 2008).
Reported Bankruptcy Cases
In re R.M. Taylor, Inc., 257 B.R. 289 (2000).
In re Cowan, 235 B.R. 922 (1999).
In re Rentfro, 234 B.R. 97 (1999).
In re Bradley J. Getman, 218 B.R. 490 (1998).
In re Payless Cashways, Inc., 215 B.R. 409 (1997).
In re Michael Kevin James, 203 B.R. 449 (1997).
The Fierce Urgency of Now: Diversity in Legal Recruiting Amidst the War for Talent, Major, Lindsey & Africa, April 28, 2022.
The General Counsel Perspective: Ways the Pandemic has Changed the Landscape of Your Company, Positively and Negatively,” Corporate Counsel Conference, Commercial Law Section, National Bar Association, February 25, 2021 (Moderator).
Diversity and Inclusion Best Practices for Identifying and Addressing Implicit Bias, CLE Webinar, Virtual In-House Counsel Forum, ACC Colorado, October 7, 2020.
Navigating the Cannabis Conundrum, ACC Houston Annual Symposium, Houston, August 15, 2019 (with Lynne Eckels and Stephanie McGraw).
Implicit Bias and Debiasing, CLE, Private Client Presentation, August 13, 2019 (with Alicia Donahue and Joan Camagong).
Building Your Law Department’s Diversity Strategy, State Bar of Georgia, Corporate Counsel Institute, 2017 (Faculty).
OMG, There’s Evidence in My Pocket!? How the Proliferation and Accessibility of Data Affects Discovery and What You Need to Know About the New Federal Rules, National Association of Minority and Women-Owned Law Firms Annual Business Meeting, 2017 (Panelist).
Navigating Ethical, Legal and Practical Implications of Data, Association of Corporate Counsel, Georgia, 2017 (Panelist).
Implicit Bias and the Lawyer’s Role as Consensus Builder, Southwire Company, LLC, 2017 (Faculty).
FCPA Compliance Audits: Best Practices in 2016 and Beyond, The Knowledge Group, 2016 (Faculty).
How to Prevent Gift, Entertainment and Hospitality Trip Wires, American Conference Institute’s (ACI) 7th Houston FCPA Boot Camp, 2013 (Faculty).
Doing Business in India, Transparency International USA Corporate Forum, 2012 (Panelist).
Understanding the Limits of Gift Giving, Hospitality and Entertainment, ACI’s 12th Annual FCPA Boot Camp, 2011 (Faculty).
Conducting Corporate Investigations – The Use of Lawful and Ethical Strategies, Association of Corporate Counsel Annual Meeting, 2009 (Faculty).
HR-Related Initiatives Under the Obama Administration, The HR Forum, New York, 2009 (Featured Speaker).
Professional Development Academy, Georgia Association of Black Women Attorneys, 2007 (Faculty).
Defeating Class Certification, Class Action Summit, New York City, 2006 (Faculty).
What Federal Judges Should Know About Sarbanes-Oxley, Just the Beginning Foundation - Association of African American Federal Judges, 2006 (featured speaker).
Responding to Government Investigations, Faculty, National Bar Association, 2006.
4 Steps For Improving Board Diversity Per New Nasdaq Rule, Law360, September 23, 2021 (with Bill Martucci and Adriana Paris).
Data Must Drive Diversity to Make a Meaningful Impact, ACC Colorado Quarterly Newsletter, July 2020 (with Buffy Mims).
When a Favor Becomes a Bribe: A Commentary on FCPA Trends in 2016, Corporate Compliance Insights, 2016 (with M. Cogen).
Litigation Management, Litigation Series (contributor, Chapter 1 - Litigation from the In-House Corporate Defendant's Perspective).
Making the Connection: Successful Legal Departments Must Reflect the Diversification of the Nation, Inside Counsel (guest columnist).
Diversity People - In A Changing World, All Attorneys Need to Own the Issue of Legal Profession Inclusion, Inside Counsel (guest columnist).
Top 10 Ways to Champion Diversity in Your Law Department, The In-House Litigator, ABA Litigation Section(with R. Bonds).
Building Relationships Between Inside and Outside Counsel, National Bar Association Commercial Law Section (with S. Woodhouse).
Selected Bankruptcy Publications and Presentations
Diversity in Bankruptcy Law: How to Diversify the Bankruptcy Field, Black Law Students Association, Washington and Lee University, March 9, 2021.
Maximizing Recoveries in Bankruptcy, COVID-19 Shook Client Primer, Shook, Hardy & Bacon, April 30, 2020 (with Mark Moedritzer and Todd Ruskamp).
Distressed Dealers: Legal Issues and Strategies in the Age of COVID-19, Webinar, Shook, Hardy & Bacon, April 16, 2020.
Bankruptcy and Creditors' Rights in the Age of COVID-19, Webinar, Shook, Hardy & Bacon, April 8, 2020.
Faculty, National Conference of Bankruptcy Judges Annual Meeting, 2004.
Updates in Bankruptcy Law for the Non-Bankruptcy Lawyer, NBA Corporate Counsel Conference, 2004.
Presenter, Missouri Bar Annual Bankruptcy Institute, 1994-2000.
Small Business Bankruptcies, Wiley Law Publications, 1994 (contributing editor).
5th Circ. To Scope SEC Agenda In Nasdaq Diversity Rule Fight, Law360, August 26, 2022
Shook Hardy’s Houston Ofﬁce Starts 2022 With a New Ofﬁce Leader, Texas Lawyer, January 4, 2022.
Shook Hardy Hires Former Coca-Cola Litigation Chief in Houston, Texas Lawyer, January 28, 2019.
Coke's Outside Counsel Get Diversity Directive, Fulton Daily Report, April 2008.
Lerach's Guilty Plea Gives Coke New Defense in Securities Fraud Case, Fulton Daily Report, October 2007.
Coke Discrimination Lawsuit Still Resonates for GCs, Fulton Daily Report, October 2007.
Plaintiff's Expert, Coke Cost Investors $1.3 Billion Dollars, Fulton Daily Report, July 2007.
Alumni Newsmaker, GWU Law School Magazine, 2006.
Panel Narrows Field to Two for Bankruptcy Judgeship, Kansas City Business Journal, October 1998.
(KC) Chiefs Seats Go Up For Bids, The Kansas City Star, November 16, 1996.