Why would Matrix LLC conduct surveillance of Tom Fanning, CEO of Southern Company -- the parent firm of Alabama Power, one of Matrix's own clients? Perhaps of even more interest, what is Fanning going to do about it?
Those two questions are hanging in the air after a report this week from al.com about the dueling lawsuits -- in Florida and Alabama -- involving former Matrix CEO Jeff Pitts and the firm's founder, Joe Perkins. Court documents do seem to answer this question: Why did Pitts leave Matrix in the first place? More on that in a moment.
As for the stunning revelations about the surveillance of Fanning and his associates, al.com's John Archibald and Kyle Whitmire write:
The political consulting firm Matrix LLC has long gathered intelligence for powerful politicians and corporate interests in Alabama, and in the process nurtured a fearsome reputation.
In its work, Matrix or its employees have surveilled environmentalists and journalists, smeared politicians and manufactured protests — to the benefit of its clients, including Alabama Power Co.
In 2017, however, it did more than look outward to potential threats. It looked upward, at Alabama Power’s parent, Southern Company and its CEO.
What will Fanning do about the intrusions into his life? Publisher K.B. Forbes has thoughts about that at the blog banbalch.com. First, he refers to a post he wrote last October:
Rumors are flying that Southern Company Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Tom Fanning is retiring next year.
And Alabama Power CEO and Chairman Mark A. Crosswhite is allegedly telling bourgeois insiders that he has the lock and key to the C-Suite at Southern Company, Alabama Power’s parent company.
Crosswhite is unfit to serve.
He worked as a top partner for alleged racist and embattled law firm Balch & Bingham before taking the revolving door to Alabama Power.
Instead of distancing himself from Balch, Crosswhite appears to be embracing his former employer, even allegedly subsidizing the firm with lucrative business as Balch is hemorrhaging from alleged unsavory and criminal scandals engulfing the 99 year-old firm.
Now unsubstantiated rumors say Alabama Power and unknown related entities have indemnified Balch and others for their alleged criminal, racist, and egregious misconduct.
Hiding behind non-disclosure agreements and now allegedly million-dollar indemnity deals, the Crosswhite scandal smells like raw sewage.
Forbes then offers his assessment of what Fanning should do
Now, before federal investigators come knocking, Fanning needs to make some tough executive decisions and
- Fire Crosswhite.
- Disengage Matrix and “Sloppy Joe” Perkins.
- Terminate Balch and Bingham.
Forbes also offers insight, taken directly from court pleadings, into the reasons behind Pitts' departure at Matrix:
Getting back to Pitts, we believe strongly now that he resigned after decades of service to “Sloppy Joe” Perkins because he saw alleged criminal misconduct. His mentor was letting him take over, but instead Pitts left, because, as his court pleading states, he saw “inappropriate and unethical business practices.”
Now Pitts could be planing to sing about “high crimes and misdemeanors” at his deposition with Perkins’ lawyers.
Are the Three Stooges (Alabama Power, Drummond, and Balch) vulnerable?
As for the Fanning surveillance, it centered around a former girlfriend. From al.com:
The listed “target” of the surveillance was Kimberly Tanaka, a fitness club owner and then-girlfriend of Fanning, but private investigator Derek Uman surveilled Tanaka and Fanning at her work and at his home.
Tanaka said she was in a serious and public relationship with Fanning that ended abruptly in 2017. She was unaware of the surveillance until recently.
“This was all news to me and I still don’t know why,” she told AL.com on Sunday. “It’s a little unnerving.”
She said she had no idea why anyone would think following her would put pressure on Fanning.
Uman, founder of Clear Capture Investigations of Gainesville, Fla., staked out Fanning’s Atlanta home and photographed him running on a wooded hill on a cul-de-sac leading to his secluded house. Uman followed and videoed Tanaka, gathered photos and billed then-Matrix CEO Pitts $6,881.55 for surveillance, travel, meals and more. Uman addressed the invoice to Pitts.
Uman, who said he has done lots of work for Matrix, refused to talk about the content of his investigation, saying that would be illegal. He did confirm the authenticity of the report, and said the invoice “was paid with a Matrix check that was signed by Joe Perkins.”
Asked about the Fanning spying, Perkins pointed in Pitts' direction. Pitts responded by pointing at Perkins:
In an interview with AL.com on Monday morning, Perkins emphatically denied he had anything to do with the surveillance of Fanning and blamed the spying on former “rogue” employees, including Pitts.