Ex-manager at Coca-Cola claims corporate fraud

ATLANTA -- A former Coca-Cola manager claims in a lawsuit that company officials conducted a massive fraud using slush funds to boost equipment sales and rigged a marketing test of Frozen Coke at Burger King restaurants.

The company says Matthew Whitley filed the lawsuit after Coke refused a demand to pay him $44.4 million to prevent it.

Whitley lost his job as finance director for supply management in March amid a reorganization that eliminated 1,000 jobs.

The company said the audit committee of the board of directors had ordered an investigation by two outside firms: the law firm of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher and accountants Deloitte & Touche.

"Until the investigation is complete, we cannot have a basis on which to respond to these allegations," company spokesman Ben Deutsch said in a statement.

Whitman resigns as chief of EPA; goes to N.J.

WASHINGTON -- Christie Whitman resigned as Environmental Protection Agency administrator on Wednesday, weary after two and a half years of struggles with fellow Bush officials, Congress and business and environmental groups.

"Halfway through last December, I was ... saying 'Do I really want to live this lifestyle for another two and a half years?' It was pretty apparent I didn't," she told reporters.

Whitman, who differed with the White House on issues ranging from global warming to power plant pollution, informed President Bush of her decision during a half-hour meeting in the Oval Office on Tuesday afternoon.

She told the president that she considered her tenure at the EPA rewarding professionally, but that it was time to return to her home and husband in New Jersey.

Jobless benefits get extension in House

WASHINGTON -- Under pressure from Democrats, House Republican leaders agreed Wednesday to legislation extending federal unemployment benefits under a program due to expire next week.

The measure, expected on the House floor by Friday before the holiday recess, would give jobless workers who exhaust their state benefits after May 31 -- when the current federal program ends -- an extra 13 weeks of federal benefits.

People in six states with high unemployment would get 26 weeks. Those states are Alaska, Oregon, Washington, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania.

Greenspan: Fed ready to do whatever needed

WASHINGTON -- With short-term interest rates near rock bottom, Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan said he still has plenty of "monetary ammunition" to prevent a destabilizing drop in prices. The Fed's goal: pump up demand for cars, homes and other items and get the economy moving again.

At Greenspan's appearance Wednesday before the congressional Joint Economic Committee, he gave his first detailed comments about deflation since Fed policy-makers warned May 6 they would be on guard against the remote possibility of such a rare and dangerous episode of widespread price declines.

The Fed's main tool to influence the economy is the federal funds rate, the interest that banks charge on overnight loans. It is at a 41-year low of 1.25 percent, which limits the number of rate cuts the Fed can order to energize the economy.

Greenspan said the Fed has other ways to pump more money into the economy, such as buying longer-term Treasury securities to drive down longer-term interest rates.

-- From wire reports

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