Thursday, March 23, 2023

Reports of a possible Alabama Power spinoff drives high anxiety among employees as spotlight shines on board members who have allowed scandal to bloom

Jim Kerr: It's a matter of trust

Online journalist Donald Watkins was swamped with messages from Alabama Power employees and their loved ones after his report yesterday that the company might be spun off and sold in an apparent effort to deal with mounting problems related to massive accounting fraud, according to an article today at under the headline "Southern Company: Trust Them at Your Own Risk."

We had a similar experience here at Legal Schnauzer after our post yesterday, based on Watkins' original reporting, about the possibility of an Alabama Power spinoff. Our blog statistics showed that the post, under the headline "Southern Company's plans to cleanse its dirty books by spinning off Alabama Power could dump a heaping load of stinky laundry in someone's unsuspecting lap," drew heavy traffic. Our posts on the evolving scandal at Southern Company (of which, Alabama Power is an affiliate) have been drawing strong readership for weeks, but yesterday's particularly heavy volume seemed to be centered on two posts -- the one about the possible Alabama Power spinoff and one with this headline "Eleven executives are shown the exits at Alabama Power and other Southern Company entities as the parent firm seeks to heal its self-inflicted wounds." Our readership trends suggest there is considerable angst among those whose livelihoods are tied to Alabama Power. Watkins says, in his post today, there is good reason for that:

As I demonstrated in “Sunshine and Transparency: Southern Company Regrouping in Atlanta Today, Tomorrow," Southern Company executives do not trust each other. They are documenting and tape recording their conversations with each other, and for good reason. 

Yesterday, Southern Company executives went into overdrive to assure anxious Alabama Power Company executives and employees that the company had no plans to sell Alabama Power to NextEra Energy, or any other purchaser. This assurance was intended to calm their fears -- for a while.

This is the same false assurance that Southern Company executives gave to Gulf Power Company executives and employees to calm their fears after word leaked out in 2018 that the Southern Company was selling Gulf Power Company to NextEra Energy.

NextEra's acquisition of Gulf Power  was completed in January 2019, and a lot of Gulf Power managers and employees got screwed after the deal was consummated.

Alabama Power employees obviously remember that episode, and in a rare instance of the company actually being transparent, it has put the writing on the wall for everyone to see, Watkins reports:

Alabama Power executives and employees do not have to rely on me to learn the truth about the Southern Company's spinoff plans. They can read about the company’s plans for asset acquisitions and disposals for themselves in the Southern Company’s February 15, 2023, K-10 filing. On page I-23 of the document, the Southern Company specifically warns Alabama Power employees and other stakeholders that:

Southern Company and its subsidiaries have made significant acquisitions, dispositions, and investments in the past and may continue to do so. Such actions cannot be assured to be completed or beneficial to Southern Company or its subsidiaries. Southern Company and its subsidiaries continually seek opportunities to create value through various transactions, including acquisitions or sales of assets.”

Personally, I do not trust the integrity of the Southern Company’s words, regulatory filings, or actions. I saw this rodeo up close at HealthSouth from 2003 to 2005.

Why the lack of trust? Watkins places the blame for that at the feet of Jim Kerr, who is described as "De Facto Chief Executive Officer of the Southern Company." The actual CEO, at least for a little while longer, is Tom Fanning. Writes Watkins:

Yesterday, I introduced my readers to James Y. (Jim) Kerr. Mr. Kerr is the general counsel and chief compliance officer of the Southern Company. He also serves as chief of staff for CEO Tom Fanning. Beginning on March 31st, Jim Kerr will become the CEO and president of Southern Company Gas.

Kerr orchestrated the sale of Gulf Power in 2018-19. He is an M&A [mergers & acquisitions] guy. Kerr will say whatever he needs to say to company executives and employees in order to get a deal done.

Jim Kerr’s official titles at the Southern Company are superfluous. In reality, Kerr is running the Southern Company. He is making all of the major decisions for the company.

At this juncture, Tom Fanning is focused on getting his retirement package secured and making sure nothing blows up in his face before he exits the company. Fanning is tired, spent, and ready to get on with his life.

As Fanning exits the Southern Company on May 24, 2023, and his designated successor, Chris Womack, awaits his turn as CEO, Jim Kerr has moved to consolidate his relationship with the company’s board of directors. 

Those close to the situation in Atlanta have described how Jim Kerr used his legal skills, aggressive personality, assertiveness, arrogance, and subconscious “white superiority complex” to seize control of the major operations of the Southern company and its affiliates. He often uses “organized chaos,” much of which he created, as an opportunity to cement his grip on power within the company.

Very few Southern Company executives like or trust Jim Kerr, according to our sources. Many of them know, suspect, or believe that Jim Kerr shares responsibility with Fanning for the Southern Company’s widespread racketeering and massive accounting-fraud problems.

For now, the relationship between Kerr and the board of directors merits special attention, Watkins reports:

According to our sources, Jim Kerr has lulled Southern Company board members into a false sense of complacency and security by gaslighting them into believing that he has their backs, and that he can make the company’s regulatory and law-enforcement problems go away. He portrays himself as a "fixer" of all corporate problems

Jim Kerr is the reason why "dirty tricks" operative Joe Perkins and his company, Matrix, LLC, still work for the Southern Company. Kerr is the reason why Perkins gets paid millions of dollars each year, without invoicing. He is the reason why Matrix's "dirty tricks"records are maintained off-site, hidden away from auditors and compliance officials. Kerr is the reason why ex-felon Kimberly G. Hines was able to serve as Matrix's CFO while the company performed its work assignments for the Southern Company and its affiliates.

Kerr's gaslighting has aided him in crowning himself as the “de facto” CEO of the Southern Company.

How does Kerr operate? Watkins provides examples:

Reportedly, Jim Kerr advised board member and former Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Kristine Svinicki that her multiple conflicts of interest on the board really didn't matter. Kerr reportedly assured Ms. Svinicki that he has the political juice in Washington to handle this issue.

According to my sources, Jim Kerr also believes that the Atlanta-based law firm of King & Spalding, working together with a properly incentivized Bill Clinton, can get Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Polite (who heads the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division) to let the Southern Company off the hook for its long-running, multi-state, racketeering enterprise and accounting-fraud schemes. After all, the Southern Company is "too politically connected to prosecute."

Furthermore, Kerr has convinced board members that: (a) the Southern Company’s problems with the Department of Justice and the negative media publicity surrounding these problems stem from infighting between Joe Perkins/Matrix and former Matrix president Jeff Pitts, (b) these problems are isolated to Alabama Power Company, (c) he (Kerr) “fixed” the Perkins/Pitts infighting problem before Matrix's "dirty tricks"information spilled into the public domain and tainted certain board members, and (d) the negative publicity engulfing the Southern Company will fade away with the passage of time.

We are also told that Jim Kerr has zero respect for Southern Company board members. Kerr believes that he is much more intelligent than they are, and that he is better equipped to make major decisions for the board. He views board members as pampered "flunkies." Board members do what they are told to do after they have been "wined and dined," according to sources familiar with Kerr.

Where does the story go from here? Watkins is preparing to shine light on board members. Until now, they largely have avoided scrutiny:

Going forward, my articles will focus on Southern Company board members. They have abdicated their duty to set and enforce operational policies that: (a) eradicate criminal activity, (b) promote “sunshine and transparency,” and (c) give life to the empty words and phrases in the Southern Company’s Code of Ethics.

When Southern Company employees feel compelled to send their company-related questions to me to publish in a news article, there is a complete breakdown in trust in the company’s workforce. Now we see why. No major Wall Street company can survive in an ecosystem that is devoid of trust.

It’s time to shine the spotlight on the Southern Company’s board members. Their apparent dereliction of duty, as a group, has allowed Jim Kerr to reign supreme at the Southern Company, without adequate supervision and oversight. In the process, Kerr has allowed the company to hurt too many innocent people.

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Southern Company's plans to cleanse its dirty books by spinning off Alabama Power could dump a heaping load of stinky laundry in someone's unsuspecting lap

Alabama Power: going for a spin?

Southern Company might be planning to cleanse its dirty books by seeking a spinoff of Alabama Power, according to a report today from Watkins, a longtime Alabama attorney and businessman, reports under the headline "Southern Company Reportedly Seeks Spinoff of Alabama Power":

On March 5, 2023, we reported that the Southern Company might be in the midst of an M&A transaction to (a) cleanse its financial books and records of the existing accounting fraud and (b) pump up the company's stock prices as CEO Tom Fanning departs the company, which is expected on May 24, 2023.

The company's February 15, 2023, 10-K filing discloses the possibility of merger and acquisition (M&A) transactions in vague terms in several sections of the financial report. These sections were included as "fig-leaf" provisions to provide cover for an M&A transaction, should one occur.

We have received reports from multiple sources that an M&A transaction is in process. Reportedly, the Southern Company is spinning off Alabama Power Company to Florida-based NextEra Energy for an undisclosed amount. We have not been able to independently confirm the identity of the purchaser. 

NextEra is the largest electric-utility holding company in the U.S. by market capitalization. NextEra is also the parent company of Florida Power & Light and Gulf Power Company.

Southern Company's stock price was $67.13 per share, as of March 21, 2023. NextEra's was $75.36 per share.

Who has been at the center of the M&A process? Watkins points to a man named Jim Kerr:

The Southern Company's General Counsel is James Y. (Jim) Kerr, II. He is scheduled to become the CEO and President of Southern Gas Company, effective on March 31st. Mr. Kerr has reportedly worked closely with Tom Fanning for several months to shepherd this M&A transaction to a successful closing.

Jim Kerr currently serves as executive vice president, chief legal officer, and chief compliance officer for Southern Company -- a position he has held since 2014. Mr. Kerr's job is to make sure that the Southern Company maintains full compliance with all federal, state, and local laws and industry regulations.

As general counsel and chief compliance officer, Mr. Kerr also reviews Southern Company regulatory filings like the Form 10-K for 2022 that was filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on February 15, 2023. In this regard, Jim Kerr would have reviewed the Sarbanes-Oxley "Certification of Chief Executive Officer" signed by Jeff Peoples for Alabama Power. [See, Exhibit 31(b)1 of the hyperlinked Form 10-K].

Peoples' Sarbanes-Oxley certification attests to the accuracy, completeness, and truthfulness of Alabama Power's financial condition for 2022, and it was based upon Jeff Peoples' knowledge as CEO.

Mark Crosswhite worked as Alabama Power's CEO for 11 months of 2022. Crosswhite actually held the title of CEO through December 31, 2022. Jeff Peoples did not assume the CEO position until January 5, 2023.

Yet, Mr. Kerr accepted a Sarbanes-Oxley certification from Jeff Peoples that contained the following material statements and representations knowing that they would be relied upon by shareholders, investors, and Wall Street lenders.

Kerr and Peoples, it appears, cut a corner, and that could prove to be dangerous for investors, Wall Street analysts, and others who rely on the accuracy of financial statements, as Watkins explains -- using Kerr's own words:

  1. I have reviewed this annual report on Form 10-K of Alabama Power Company;

  2. Based on my knowledge, this report does not contain any untrue statement of a material fact or omit to state a material fact necessary to make the statements made, in light of the circumstances under which such statements were made, not misleading with respect to the period covered by this report;

  3. Based on my knowledge, the financial statements, and other financial information included in this report, fairly present in all material respects the financial condition, results of operations and cash flows of the registrant as of, and for, the periods presented in this report;

  4. The registrant's other certifying officer [the Chief Financial Officer] and I are responsible for establishing and maintaining disclosure controls and procedures (as defined in Exchange Act Rules 13a-15(e) and 15d-15(e)) and internal control over financial reporting (as defined in Exchange Act Rules 13a-15(f) and 15d-15(f)) for the registrant and have:

    a. Designed such disclosure controls and procedures, or caused such disclosure controls and procedures to be designed under our supervision, to ensure that material information relating to the registrant, including its consolidated subsidiaries, is made known to us by others within those entities, particularly during the period in which this report is being prepared. 

    b. Designed such internal control over financial reporting, or caused such internal control over financial reporting to be designed under our supervision, to provide reasonable assurance regarding the reliability of financial reporting and the preparation of financial statements for external purposes in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles;

    c. Evaluated the effectiveness of the registrant's disclosure controls and procedures and presented in this report our conclusions about the effectiveness of the disclosure controls and procedures, as of the end of the period covered by this report based on such evaluation; and

    d. Disclosed in this report any change in the registrant's internal control over financial reporting that occurred during the registrant's most recent fiscal quarter (the registrant’s fourth fiscal quarter in the case of an annual report) that has materially affected, or is reasonably likely to materially affect, the registrant’s internal control over financial reporting; and

    5. The registrant's other certifying officer and I have disclosed, based on our most recent evaluation of internal control over financial reporting, to the registrant's auditors [Deloitte & Touche] and the audit committee of the registrant's board of directors (or persons performing the equivalent functions):

    a. All significant deficiencies and material weaknesses in the design or operation of internal control over financial reporting which are reasonably likely to adversely affect the registrant’s ability to record, process, summarize and report financial information; and

    b. Any fraud, whether or not material, that involves management or other employees who have a significant role in the registrant’s internal control over financial reporting.

    Date: February 15, 2023 /s/J. Jeffrey Peoples J. Jeffrey Peoples Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer


    Why does this raise a suspect eye? Watkins makes the answer clear:

    It would have been literally impossible for Jeff Peoples, who only became CEO on January 5, 2023, to perform the Sarbanes-Oxley-related CEO duties and responsibilities for 2022 that are described in his certification. Prior to becoming CEO, Peoples was executive vice president of Customer and Employee Services at Alabama Power, where he oversaw customer services, marketing and economic development strategy and operations. In addition, he was responsible for Alabama Power’s labor relations, human resources, safety, wellness, health and disability management functions.

    The matters entailed in Peoples' certification are not mere ministerial functions. They are substantive matters that attest to the financial integrity of the numbers in the 10-K.

    The level of knowledge required for a Sarbanes-Oxley certification is typically derived from a host of meetings between the signatory CEO and the company's operating officers, controllers, and accounting managers, as well as the head of internal audit over the course of the year in question. This function cannot be adequately performed by a newly installed CEO on an after-the-fact basis or be delegated to someone else to affirm. After all, the certification imposes personal criminal liability on the signatory CEO and Chief Financial Officer.

    If the financial numbers in the 10-Ks and 10-Qs are wrong, a publicly traded company can collapse overnight like Silicon Valley Bank did earlier this month, or the way HealthSouth did in 2003.

    Jim Kerr knew, or reasonably should have known, that Jeff Peoples' Sarbanes-Oxley certification for the Southern Company's second largest revenue affiliate -- Alabama Power Company -- is false and misleading.

    Unfortunately, for Southern Company shareholders, investors, and bankers, Peoples' Sarbanes-Oxley certification is only one readily understandable example of accounting fraud in just one Southern Company affiliate for just one of four regulatory filings required for 2022. In these economically challenging times, this example would be considered "low hanging fruit" for a competent federal prosecutor.

    The jointly-filed 10-Ks and 10-Qs for the prior years are also rife with a plethora of accounting fraud schemes and techniques. Based upon my review of the Southern Company's 10-Ks and 10-Qs and my personal experience in the HealthSouth case, they all need to be amended and restated.

    All of this indicates the Alabama Power M&A process is deeply flawed. Instead of resolving some of the company's problems, it could make them worse:

    The Southern Company's reported spinoff of Alabama Power is a technique for exporting liabilities arising from an accounting-fraud scheme and other unlawful acts from a host company to third-party business entity. This technique comes straight out of the HealthSouth $2.7-billion accounting fraud handbook.

    As you can see from Jeff Peoples' false Sarbanes-Oxley certifications, Jim Kerr’s role as general counsel and chief compliance officer was central to either detecting accounting fraud, or enabling it. Did Jim Kerr fail Jeff Peoples and the Southern Company in this critical role? Apparently, he did.

    Like the general counsel in the HealthSouth case, Mr. Kerr’s involvement in the transactions that facilitated, enabled, and/or fueled the Southern Company’s massive, long-running, multi-affiliate accounting-fraud schemes deserves heightened scrutiny by board members, utility regulators, and U.S. Department of Justice officials.

    Despite his role as the company's chief compliance officer, neither Mr. Kerr, nor anyone working under his direction and supervision, has ever contacted us to request any information that we may voluntarily share with the company regarding the accounting-fraud schemes at the Southern Company. Even after we published the handwritten notes made by Southern Company contractor Joe Perkins during an April 6, 2017 off-site meeting that outlined the broad areas of the accounting fraud, we never heard from Mr. Kerr.

    As we reported on March 5, 2023, the accounting-fraud schemes arose from the $25 billion in cost overruns at the Southern Company’s Kemper, Mississippi and Vogtle power plants. The aggregate amount of the fraud over the past decade appears to be at least $27 billion.

    Even though the Southern Company is seeking a non-prosecution agreement from the U.S. Department of Justice, no attorney from the King & Spalding law firm that is handling this DOJ matter for the company has reached out to us for the pertinent information in our possession that may help them document the nature and scope of the accounting fraud.

    Of particular concern in this matter is whether Mr. Kerr knew, or reasonably should have known, the Southern Company’s true reason for pursuing the Alabama Power spinoff transaction, and whether Kerr gaslighted board members when discussing the purpose of this transaction with them?

    At the moment, it appears the Alabama Power spinoff could wind up leaving someone holding a smelly load of baggage, Watkins reports:

    If consummated, the spinoff of Alabama Power would allow the Southern Company to bundle most of its known racketeering problems with some of its accounting-fraud baggage and pawn these liabilities off on the purchaser. The Southern Company will leave it to purchaser to clean-up the ranks of senior-management executives at Alabama Power and terminate the contracts of shady vendors like Matrix, LLC, and its owner, Joe Perkins.

    It is unknown at this time whether a business valuation firm has performed a “fairness opinion” for the purchaser on Alabama Power’s revenue potential, assets, and liabilities and has become aware of the accounting fraud embedded within the Southern Company’s consolidated 10-Q and 10-K regulatory filings.

    Despite its legendary lawlessness, growing legal problems, and mounting financial liabilities, Alabama Power remains one of the Southern Company’s most profitable affiliates. In 2022, Alabama Power grossed more than $7.8 billion in operating revenues. Only Georgia Power, with nearly $11.6 billion in operating revenues in 2022, was a more profitable affiliate.

    What is more, Alabama Power is the only utility company in America where taxpayers guarantee the company’s shareholders a minimum return on their equity. Despite a 21% increase in operating revenues for 2022 (over its revenues for 2021), Alabama Power still gouged its customers with crippling rate increases in 2022.

    To date, this spinoff transaction has NOT closed, and the Southern Company has NOT secured a non-prosecution agreement from the Department of Justice.

Alabama Power CEO Jeff Peoples' promise of "sunshine and transparency" apparently includes payment to terrorize family of lawyer Burt Newsome


Alabama Power CEO Jeff Peoples promised employees they would receive "sunshine and transparency" from him. But evidence suggests that promise did not hold up very long, according to a report at, which operates under the CDLU public charity and advocacy group

Writes K.B. Forbes, CEO of the CDLU, under the headline "Use of Fear, Threat of Death: Alabama Power CEO Jeff Peoples Approved Terrorizing Children and Hid Payment as “Transportation Organization Management”:

Yesterday’s breaking news report from that included audio of Alabama Power’s new but embattled Chairman and CEO Jeff Peoples declaring “what ya’ll are going to get from me is sunshine and transparency” has caused a firestorm at the utility.

Peoples comments of “sunshine and transparency” go counter to the hard evidence law enforcement and others have.

Peoples, as Executive Vice President of Employee and Customer Services at Alabama Power, hid additional payments to Matrix, LLC, the obscure political consulting firm that allegedly engaged in nefarious if not criminal misconduct and other entities tied to Matrix’s founder, Joe Perkins, by issuing vague “extra work authorizations.”

As we pointed out in December, shortly after ex-Alabama Power Chairman and CEO Mark A. Crosswhite resigned in disgrace, Peoples signed off on an “extra work authorization” in 2018 paying Perkins an additional mid-five figures on top of the secret multi-million-dollar annual contracts the firm and its founder, Perkins, received.

Now, today, we publish that work authorization in its entirety. (See document above.)

[Note: How does a top executive at an American international conglomerate -- the 33rd largest firm in the country -- react to news about Southern Company's actions, as described in this post? Find the answer in a news item at the end of this post.]

The document reflects a payment of $39,300, and Forbes shines light on that figure:

And what was the $39,300 allegedly for?

For “transportation organization management” according to the document, but a blatant lie, insiders confirm.

The reality is the extra work authorization was to target and terrorize the young children of Burt Newsome.

Newsome, an attorney who represents banks and financial institutions, was stunned when his wife and four young children were sent a threatening package tied to the “extra work authorization.”

As we wrote in August of 2018:

But now come the real sick idiots who sent the Newsome family a threatening package:

 Five pieces of luggage and numerous clothing outfits. 

The message was crystal clear: get ready to pack and leave town.

Were they threatening the family? The father, Burt Newsome? Was he going to be injured, killed or murdered?  Or were the wife and children going to “disappear” on a permanent vacation?

The extra work authorization was OK'd on August 3, 2018 and the incident against the Newsome family happened four days later on August 7, 2018 according to the police report.

A stolen credit card obtained from the break in of Newsome’s wife's car a few days earlier was used in the purchase of the travel bags and outfits. Use of a stolen credit card is a felony.

Perhaps all of this helps explain the lack of trust employees have in Peoples, according to a press report. Writes Forbes:

As Donald reported yesterday:

Alabama Power Company employees are very uncomfortable with Jeff Peoples, but they are meeting his leadership demands. After all, Peoples is their new CEO.

However, top Alabama Power employees have been documenting Peoples’ demands to cover themselves in the event things at the company blowup because they know that Jeff Peoples funded all the Joe Perkins/Matrix “dirty tricks” projects, with absolutely no accountability.

Perkins’ Southern Company-related work assignments are the subject of multiple media and law enforcement investigations in multiple states. Perkins handwritten notes have also implicated Southern Company in a massive $27-billion, multi-year accounting fraud scheme.

And the massive, multi-year accounting fraud scheme is evident in these obscure “extra work authorizations” used to pay for insidious, nefarious, if not criminal misconduct, and allegedly including identity theft, robbery, retaliation against an informant, use of a stolen credit card, use of fear, threat of murder, threat of bodily injury or death, invasion of privacy, intrusion of seclusion and much, much more.

And these Southern Company executives cannot foresee a criminal RICO case right before their eyes?

Maybe Joe Perkins is barking at Peoples like he barked at Crosswhite before Crosswhite’s sudden but expected demise.

This bogus “transportation organization management” work order adds to last week’s sensational allegation from that Peoples allegedly spent up to $30,000 a month in corporate funds on hookers and party pads.

A forensic audit is in order and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission must broaden its probe to look at bogus work orders, wire fraud, and alleged misappropriation of corporate funds. Any criminal findings should be referred to the U.S. Department of Justice.

In the meantime, Southern Company must terminate Joe Perkins, Jeff Peoples, Balch & Bingham, and all the elements involved in the criminal RICO enterprise.

Newsome’s children deserve it. Investors deserve it. Rate payers deserve it.

The era of dirty deeds, dirty lingerie, and dirty accounting methods must come to an end, no matter how ugly or painful the consequences might be.


A top attorney for General Electric (GE) is aghast over the above report about Southern Company's apparent disconnect from standard business ethics

A high-level corporate attorney reacted with a mix of revulsion and bafflement upon learning via social media about Southern Company's actions described in the above post.

Claudia Sibert-Power
Claudia T. Sibert-Power, senior legal counsel for General Electric (based in Switzerland), seemingly could hardly believe the words she was reading. Here is her response on social media after reading an account of Southern Company's willingness to spend significant dollars to terrorize the family of Birmingham-area lawyer Burt Newsome, including his wife and four young children. Wrote Sibert-Power:

Thank you for sharing this article. I want to like and share further for awareness, but I feel a thumbs-up icon doesn't express my real feelings of such a monstrosity. It simply is unbelievable the lengths one would go just to compromise simple ethics.

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Southern Company executives meet in Atlanta amid promises of "sunshine and transparency" as mounting racketeering scandal closes in from all directions

Alabama Power headquarters in Birmingham

Southern Company executives have been meeting in Atlanta yesterday and today in an apparent effort to regroup and make plans for the racketeering scandal that seems to be engulfing them from all sides. That is from a breaking-news report late yesterday at According to Watkins, Alabama Power CEO Jeff Peoples has promised employees that they will receive "sunshine and transparency" from him. 

Watkins reports that top Alabama Power employees are documenting Peoples' demands to cover themselves in case the sun does not shine and the transparency does not materialize. Under the headline "Sunshine and Transparency: Southern Company Regrouping in Atlanta," Watkins writes:

Yesterday, the Southern Company held the first of two days of meetings with its officers, companywide. Senior management executives attended the meeting from Alabama Power Company, Georgia Power Company, and Mississippi Power.

The meeting started at noon (on March 20, 2023) at the Georgia Tech Conference Center and will continue until noon today (March 21, 2023).

Immediately after Jeff Peoples was appointed CEO of Alabama Power Company on January 5, 2023, he held internal meetings with Alabama Power executives and employees where he promised them that “what ya’ll are going to get from me is sunshine and transparency.”Watkins even includes an audio clip of Peoples making the promise in his own voice. (Click on this link and scross just past the third paragraph.)

Is there a high level of trust from employees? It does not sound like it, as Watkins writes:

Alabama Power Company employees are very uncomfortable with Jeff Peoples, but they are meeting his leadership demands. After all, Peoples is their new CEO.

However, top Alabama Power employees have been documenting Peoples’ demands to cover themselves in the event things at the company blow up because they know that Jeff Peoples funded all the Joe Perkins/Matrix "dirty tricks" projects, with absolutely no accountability.

Perkins’ Southern Company-related work assignments are the subject of multiple media and law-enforcement investigations in multiple states. Perkins handwritten notes have also implicated Southern Company in a massive $27-billion, multi-year accounting-fraud scheme.

Watkins addresses the questions that appear to be on employees' minds -- and he concludes with some of his own advice for Peoples and other top dogs:

Here are the “sunshine and transparency” questions many Southern Company executives want answered at Tuesday’s meeting, along with some pertinent background facts for raising these questions: 1. How much total money has Southern Company, acting by and through Alabama Power, Georgia Power, and Mississippi Power, paid Joe Perkins/Matrix to have street hustlers like Steve Flowers (Troy, Alabama) and Bill Britt (Montgomery, Alabama) attack an African-American critic and corporate ethics advocate like me?

It is an established fact that Southern Company and its affiliates have paid millions of dollars to Joe Perkins for decades, via multiple “no invoicing” contracts, to: (a) execute drive-by character assassinations of critics, and (b) corrupt local, state, and federal public officials. Based upon Southern Company financial records, board minutes, and certain regulatory agency records I have reviewed to-date, not one dime of this Perkins/Matrix money was disclosed to Southern Company board members or state and federal utility regulators, as required by law. 2. Did Joe Perkins/Matrix use portions of his/its Southern Company contract dollars to hire private investigators to: (a) spy on Southern Company executives and others, (b) pay fake news sites like Alabama Political Reporter and Yellowhammer News to publish Matrix-generated propaganda pieces that masquerade as “news,” and (c) run smear campaigns against Public Service Commissioners in Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi? 3. What other smear campaigns and "dirty tricks" operations did Joe Perkins and his affiliated companies perform using Southern Company shareholder and ratepayer money? Where are the publicly available files of Perkins' contract deliverables? Did auditors Deloitte & Touche have access to the Perkins off-site files of contract deliverables?

4. Has Southern Company’s board of directors conducted a forensic audit of the funds paid to Joe Perkins, his affiliated companies, and his subcontractors? If so, what did this audit find? If not, why not? What has Southern Company disclosed to major institutional investors like the Vanguard Group, Inc. and BlackRock Inc. about Joe Perkins’ scope of work for the company and its affiliates? 5. How much is Southern Company paying Perkins now, and for what services (other than attacking me)?

For the sake of Southern Company's loyal executives and employees, its investors, and customers, please answer these questions at Tuesday morning's meeting. A great company will come apart at the seams if top Southern Company executives do not deliver Tuesday on Peoples' promise of "sunshine and transparency."

Please come clean with your executives tomorrow! They don't need another Kum Ba Yah session like they experienced on Monday.

Monday, March 20, 2023

Stephanie Flowers Patel, daughter of Alabama political columnist, faced three criminal charges involving drug possession and fraud, but escaped jail time on all three

Stephanie Flowers Patel

The adult daughter of Alabama political columnist Steve Flowers, who has called for Donald Watkins to be jailed for his aggressive reporting on the Southern Company/Alabama Power scandal, recently has been arrested and charged in two cases of felony drug possession, plus one charge of insurance fraud. In all three instances, Stephanie Flowers Patel managed to escape a sentence that involved incarceration, according to a report at Writes Watkins, a longtime Alabama attorney, under the headline "How Steve Flowers’ Daughter Avoided Prison in Felony Drug, Fraud Cases":

Stephanie Flowers Patel is the 40-year-old daughter of Internet blogger and political columnist Steve Flowers. She had a recent experience in Alabama's criminal-justice system that highlights a very troubling aspect of the system.

On March 15, 2023, Steve Flowers used his website to viciously attack me for posting news articles about Matrix owner Joe Perkins, Alabama Power Company, the Southern Company, former U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-Alabama), and those who worked in concert with them to perpetuate a multistage, long-running, racketeering enterprise and massive accounting fraud scheme at the Southern Company and its affiliates.

My articles apparently miffed Flowers. In his March 15, 2023, Op-ed article, Flowers called me a “disgraced, fraudulent criminal conman” who is "brazen," "arrogant," "non-repentant," and a "threat to society." The first time I saw this combination of words in print to describe a black man was when the FBI used them in an early 1960s internal memo to describe my Sunday school teacher, church pastor, and BTU instructor, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Flowers also demanded that I be jailed simply for writing and publishing news articles that are critical of the political oligarchs who run Alabama.

Flowers concluded his article by reminding his readers that his "forefathers" did not confer First Amendment rights on people of my ancestry. In fact, Flowers' forefathers conferred absolutely NO rights of any kind on blacks, whether enslaved or freed.

How did Flowers come to attack Watkins so viciously for exercising his First Amendment rights, the same rights Flowers uses in publishing his newspaper column? The answer to that question, Watkins states, can be traced to Joe Perkins, founder and owner of the Montgomery-based Matrix LLC "dirty tricks" consulting firm:

Flowers was called into action as a media "hit man" by his close friend and ally, Joe Perkins -- the man who is at the epicenter of the Southern Company’s pervasive racketeering enterprise and its resulting criminal investigations.

In the process of condemning me and urging my imprisonment, Steve Flowers failed to mention Stephanie’s recent criminal cases. I want to use Stephanie’s cases for the sole purpose of spotlighting a growing problem within Alabama’s criminal-justice system -- the disparate treatment of similarly-situated accused persons.

We have no evidence that Steve Flowers pulled strings to help his daughter escape a legal jam. But it seems likely that Stephanie Flowers Patel's ties to the worlds of politics and journalism did not hurt her case. Writes Watkins:

On June 8, 2019, Stephanie Flowers Patel was arrested and charged with two felony cases of possession of illegal drugs. The cases were docketed in the Jefferson County, Alabama District Court (Bessemer Division) as State of Alabama v. Patel Stephanie Flowers, Case Nos. DC-2019-002050 and DC-2019-002051.

On January 28, 2020, Stephanie was arrested, again, and charged with one felony count of insurance fraud. The case was docketed in the Jefferson County, Alabama Circuit Court (Bessemer Division) as State of Alabama v. Patel Stephanie Flowers, Case No. CC-2020-000024.

On March 11, 2020, Stephanie was sentenced to a pretrial diversion program on the drug charges in Case Nos. DC-2019-002050 and DC-2019-002051. This judicial action allowed her to avoid imprisonment. On July 14, 2020, Stephanie's drug cases were dismissed.

On October 6, 2020, Stephanie entered a plea to the district attorney's Information (or Complaint) for the insurance-fraud case. The Court accepted her plea deal. On October 27, 2020, Stephanie was sentenced to pretrial diversion on the fraud charge. Once again, Stephanie escaped imprisonment.

Steve Flowers, himself, was the beneficiary of a generous pretrial diversion program. He entered the program after his arrest in 2007 on domestic-violence and criminal-mischief charges in Florida, even though his case involved allegations of violent behavior. After completing the program, Flowers’ criminal charges were dismissed.

Would the outcomes in the Stephanie Flowers Patel matters have been different for a defendant without connections? Watkins, it seems, suspects the answer is yes:

White first-time, non-violent offenders like Stephanie Flowers Patel are routinely admitted into pretrial diversion programs, while black first-time, non-violent offenders from low income socioeconomic backgrounds with similar charges are often denied admission to these programs.

Interestingly, when actor Jussie Smollett, who is black, was admitted in 2019 into a pretrial diversion program in Chicago, it created a firestorm of controversy from the privileged white community that routinely benefits from these programs. Smollett was charged with filing a false police report, a low-level Class 4 felony.

Stephanie Flowers was indicted on felony fraud and drug charges. There was no public outcry when she was admitted to Jefferson County’s pretrial diversion program in all three cases. After all, Stephanie is Steve Flowers' daughter, and he is "Alabama’s leading political columnist" whose "weekly column appears in more than 60 Alabama newspapers."

Hopefully, Steve Flowers did not direct any of his fury at Stephanie for the fraudulent conduct alleged in her indictment and criminal complaints. Understandably, Flowers did not publicly condemn Stephanie’s alleged possession of drugs while he was scolding other similarly situated drug offenders in his Op-ed articles.

What is more, Steve Flowers has never railed against the privileges afforded to the children of powerful white politicians in Alabama who have gained access to pretrial diversion and “First Chance” programs up to nine times for a single defendant in serial drug-related cases.

This glaring disparate treatment in Alabama's criminal-justice system must come to an end. Every accused person should be treated the same and should be afforded the same opportunity for pretrial diversion.

Friday, March 17, 2023

Alabama political figure, who called for Donald Watkins to be jailed for practicing journalism, has an arrest for domestic violence in his background

Steve Flowers

A veteran Alabama political commentator, who called this week for Donald Watkins to be thrown in jail for his online journalism, has a domestic-violence arrest in his background. Steve Flowers, who apparently called for Watkins arrest because he disliked the longtime attorney's hard-hitting investigative reporting on the evolving Southern Company/Alabama Power/Matrix LLC fraud-bribery scandal, was arrested in 2007 for "domestic violence battery" and "criminal mischief." Details on the Flowers criminal case come from a report at under the headline "Joe Perkins’ Defender Arrested for Domestic Violence." Perkins is the founder and owner of the Montgomery-based Matrix LLC political-consulting firm, which long has been known as a "dirty tricks" operations, with ties to powerful GOP political figures, such as retired U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby. Writes Watkins:

Steve Flowers, a/k/a Jackson Stephen Flowers, was arrested on April 10, 2007, in Okaloosa County, Florida for “Domestic Violence Battery” and “Criminal Mischief.” On June 21, 2007, Flowers entered into a deferred prosecution agreement which required him to (a) participate in a court-approved domestic violence counseling program and (b) make a payment to a rape crisis trust fund. Flowers was also required to pay a domestic violence surcharge.

After Steve Flowers made the required court payments and completed the terms of his deferred prosecution agreement, state prosecutors dismissed his domestic violence case.

Flowers' court docket sheet may be viewed here.

That is reminiscent of another case involving a prominent Alabama political figure, Watkins notes, and it leads to Perkins' own history of alleged domestic misconduct and professional entanglements:

Former Chief U.S. District Court Judge Mark E. Fuller (Montgomery, Alabama) used this same judicial approach to resolve a domestic-violence charge against him after he viciously beat his second wife in a downtown Atlanta hotel room on August 11, 2014.

Like Steve Flowers, Mark Fuller was a Joe Perkins friend and fellow domestic violence arrestee. Fuller resigned his federal judgeship after Congress threatened to impeach him.

On May 15, 2022, Joe Perkins, himself, was accused by his daughter, Taylor Lea Perkins, of committing incest against her from the age of 3 or 4 to 12 or 13. Perkins has NOT denied his now-adult daughter’s rape and incest allegations.

Perkins is also a confessed federal lawbreaker. His confession can be viewed here.

In 2021, Jeff Pitts, Perkins' former CEO at Matrix, LLC, accused him in court pleadings of extortion, racketeering, and abuse of the legal process. Under pressure from the Southern Company, Perkins quickly settled the case after Pitts filed subpoenas in court for a host of incriminating business documents in Perkins' possession.

Earlier this week, Perkins was back in the news when media groups in Alabama reported that one of his subcontractors procured and maintained a supply of black prostitutes to service new Alabama Power Company CEO Jeff Peoples, at a cost to the company of up to $30,000 per month.

On June 9, 2022, Joe Perkins was accused by his daughter of arranging hotel room abortions. Again, Perkins has NOT denied his daughter's claim.

Amid the growing media scandal and law enforcement investigations that have engulfed Joe Perkins, Matrix, Alabama Power, Georgia Power, Mississippi Power, the Southern Company, and his other corporate clients, Perkins has chosen to attack me. His orchestrated attacks on me have only brought further attention to the lawlessness within the Southern Company's empire of energy-producing businesses.

Perkins has transmogrified from the Southern Company's hired "crisis manager" to the epicenter of the company's shocking meltdown and growing law-enforcement crisis. In the process, Perkins has started posting cryptic comments on his Facebook page like, "Dying is so overrated. It is a great beginning, not a (sic) ending."

Flowers' call for Watkins' incarceration can be traced to Joe Perkins, Watkins writes, and that leads to more baggage in Flowers' background:

Steven Flowers is a washed-up former Alabama state legislator who left public office in 1998. He is also a part-time Internet blogger and a rehabilitated domestic-violence perpetrator. Most importantly, Flowers is a close friend of Joe Perkins -- whenever he gets paid to place Perkins/Matrix-written articles on his blog.

Flowers was tapped earlier this week to lead the Southern Company’s smear campaign against me.

Flowers’ last high-profile media appearance occurred in 2016 and centered on his use of at least $40,000 in campaign funds for “personal expenses.” Flowers' use of leftover campaign funds is ongoing. [Click here to see Flowers' expenditures from a 1998 campaign fund that he has converted to his personal use over the past 25 years].

Once again, Flowers managed to escape a criminal prosecution for his deeds.

Flowers’ attack article on me was placed in the Alabama Political Reporter and circulated as a news release. According to National Public Radio (NPR), Joe Perkins pays the Alabama Political Reporter (APR) $8,000 per month to run attack articles on his enemies. The NPR article explains how the "dirty tricks" business arrangement works between Joe Perkins and APR's Editor-in-Chief, Bill Britt.

For the record, APR has refused to run my rebuttal article, even though I made a formal request on March 15, 2023, for them to do so.

At this point, Steve Flowers, APR, and Bill Britt may be material witnesses in the federal probe of Perkins, Matrix, Alabama Power, and the Southern Company.

Perkins, Watkins writes, has a curious history with Alabama's mainstream press:

For years, Joe Perkins has managed to commandeer much of Alabama’s weak, financially strapped, and compromised press apparatus to distribute his “hit” pieces under the guise of mainstream journalism. This goal is typically accomplished by funneling desperately needed Alabama Power Company cash to the state's starving news-media outlets.

Unfortunately for Joe Perkins, neither Steve Flowers, nor APR, nor Perkins’ other paid media cronies are in a position to dispute the authenticity of handwritten documents Perkins made that document the massive accounting-fraud scheme and racketeering enterprise that operated at Alabama Power, the Southern Company, and its affiliates for more than a decade. Perkins' handwritten notes speak for themselves.

Perkins' notes, together with much more damning evidence of wrongdoing, will soon be on their way to federal prosecutors in Washington and the Southern Company's two largest institutional investors -- The Vanguard Group, Inc., and BlackRock, Inc.

On the subject of incarceration, Watkins says that might not turn out the way Flowers envisions:

Steve Flowers said I should be jailed for writing and publishing my articles about Joe Perkins, Richard Shelby, Matrix, the Alabama Supreme Court, Birmingham federal prosecutors, Alabama Power Company, and the Southern Company. Flowers labeled me as "brazen," "arrogant,""non-repentant,"and a "threat to society."

These are the same words and phrases Flowers' Old South ancestors used to describe runaway black slaves, as well as those who could not be broken.

Flowers also lamented that the nation's forefathers never envisioned someone like me having First Amendment rights. This statement is true. When America was founded, blacks in this country, whether enslaved or freed, had no rights that white men were bound to respect. See, Dred Scott v. Sanford (1857).

In 2022, the all-white Alabama Supreme Court (in a state with a 26% black population) embraced Flowers' slavery-era view in Joe Perkins' defamation case against me. Remember, this is the same state supreme court that upheld a $500,000 defamation judgment against Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and four fellow civil-rights activists in 1963 in the landmark case of New York Times v. Sullivan.

Finally, it appears that Joe Perkins and his circle of friends at Alabama Power and the Southern Company are the ones who should be worried about going to jail. As I understand it, former Alabama Power CEO Mark Crosswhite is prepared to sing like an opera star to federal law-enforcement agents.