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US ends probe of Coca-Cola

ATLANTA -- The Justice Department has abruptly ended without taking action its nearly two-year-old criminal investigation of accusations raised in a whistleblower lawsuit that alleged accounting irregularities at Coca-Cola Co., the world's biggest soft drink maker said yesterday.

Separately, the Atlanta-based company said it reached a settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission over its business practices in Japan.

It was not clear why the Justice Department dropped its investigation, which included grand jury testimony from several current and former Coke executives. Patrick Crosby, a spokesman for the US attorney's office in Atlanta, declined to comment.

In a memo to employees yesterday, chief executive Neville Isdell said that under the settlement with the SEC, Coke has agreed to take unspecified remedial actions in the areas of corporate compliance and disclosure.

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