Numerous readers have asked longtime Alabama attorney and businessman Donald Watkins why his online journalism has focused so heavily this month on the Southern Company racketeering scandal. Watkins addresses those questions in a new post -- and he does not pull any punches. In a piece titled "We Must Reform the Southern Company," Watkins essentially states that this story involves corruption that is profoundly important to the public -- especially to residents of Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, and Florida -- and to the nation. At this moment in history, no regulatory or law-enforcement entity seems capable of cleaning up the mess, so citizen reporting -- especially by someone who has served as a lawyer in cases of corporate fraud -- might be the best chance. From the new Watkins post:
In recent weeks, I have received many inquiries from concerned parties affiliated with the Southern Company, Alabama Power Company, Georgia Power Company, and Mississippi Power Company who want to fully understand why these utility companies have been the focus of my investigative articles this month. This is a fair question.
I find that the best person to speak for me is me. I do not use messengers or surrogates as spokespersons. When I speak, I do so in my own voice and in articles published under my own name.
From his experience as a defense lawyer in the HealthSouth accounting-fraud case, Watkins has the skill set to sort out a matter as broad and complex as the Southern Company scandal. He writes:
I am undressing the Southern Company and its affiliates publicly for the following reasons:
1. Based upon my experience as an attorney in representing national corporations and in sifting through the rubble of the HealthSouth implosion from 2003 to 2005, I firmly believe that the top executives at the Southern Company are big-time crooks. They ran an ongoing multi-state racketeering enterprise and massive accounting-fraud scheme for more than a decade.
2. Based upon his own words and deeds, I believe James Y. “Jim” Kerr, II, is a polished, callous, dangerous, and unreformed bigot. Even though Kerr’s titles at the Southern Company are executive vice president, general counsel, chief compliance officer, and chief of staff to CEO Tom Fanning, he really serves as the “de facto” CEO of the company. What is more, Jim Kerr did not give a damn about whether the Southern Company suppressed the environmental justice rights of its black customers, or not. He is a modern-day version of Eugene “Bull” Connor who happens to be nesting at the Southern Company.
3. David J. Grain, the top Black on the Southern Company board of directors, and other Blacks in senior management positions have been reduced to mannequins who serve a window-dressing function. They wield no real power within the company. None of them can fire Jim Kerr or tell him what to do. In fact, Kerr really bosses all of them. Kerr has as much respect for these Black executives as he had for the Black residents of North Birmingham, whom he condemned to a long, slow death from the toxic pollutants that poisoned the air, ground, and water in their neighborhoods.
You might think that state or federal authorities would be the ones to tackle the Southern Company fraud. But Watkins has little confidence in their ability, or willingness, to take on such a task:
4. No state or federal public official will stand up to the Southern Company and demand that the company stop mistreating its nine million captive customers who must buy electric power from its monopolistic affiliate companies. The public officials and law- enforcement agencies that could protect the public from the racketeering activity and accounting-fraud schemes practiced by the Southern Company simply turn their heads and look the other way. Additionally, the Southern Company, acting by and through its agents on the ground, absolutely corrupted one current and two former federal law-enforcement officials in Birmingham, Alabama. Meanwhile, the Southern Company continues to rape and pillage its nine million customers, at-will, each and every month on their electric bills.
5. My personal value system will not allow me to stand idly by and watch the Southern Company engage in unpoliced lawlessness. I have withstood the company’s coordinated efforts to: (a) railroad my son and me in a rigged federal criminal justice system, (b) imprison us, (c) attempt to kill me at two federal prisons, and (d) trash my son’s and my name in the white-owned media using paid media hustlers and “dirty tricks” operatives. None of these efforts has succeeded. The Southern Company underestimated our strength, resolve, and resources to (a) correct a plain injustice in our individual case, and (b) promote the fair administration of justice for all nine million of its customers.
6. My son and I are victims of the Southern Company’s criminal racketeering enterprise. We have a formal RICO complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice. The Southern Company is aware of our RICO complaint, as CEO Tom Fanning was served with a courtesy copy of the complaint on January 27, 2023. In response to our RICO complaint, the Southern Company paid political hustler Steve Flowers to write a drive-by character assassination article and Bill Britt’s Alabama Political Reporter to distribute the Flowers article on the Internet. This response constituted a sanctioned act of retaliation against a known witness in a federal criminal RICO case and a violation of federal felony statutes prohibiting obstruction of justice and witness tampering.
Please notice that the Southern Company has not disputed a single fact that I have published in my recent articles about the company. The company cannot do so because my facts are based upon Southern Company corporate documents, handwritten notes made by its co-conspirators, and recorded conversations between top executives.
Just so you know, Southern Company executives and employees are flooding me with source documents and inside information for my articles.
How do Southern Company officials plan to get through this mess of their own making? Watkins has a pretty good idea of what they are thinking:
The Company’s strategy is to ride out this storm. Top executives think that laundered campaign contributions to powerful Democrats in Washington, accompanied by influence peddling from former Democrat presidents, can buy the Southern Company’s way out of a criminal prosecution in one of the biggest racketeering and accounting fraud cases in corporate history.
I personally know how weak, impotent, and inept Joe Biden’s Department of Justice is when it comes to taking on Wall Street crooks. As such, my goals are to: (a) dismantle the cancer of corruption that is destroying the Southern Company and (b) reform what used to be a great company by using the power of online media to restore integrity, respect for humanity, care for its customers, and social responsibility to its corporate mission.
I am confident that my strategy and goals will prevail. They always do.