|Bryan Anderson (right), with CEO Tom Fanning and Sen. Lindsey Graham
Bryan D. Anderson, a public-affairs executive at The Coca-Cola Company in the 1990s, was a central figure in a racial-discrimination lawsuit brought by Black employees that resulted in a $192-million settlement in 2001 -- at the time, the largest settlement of its kind in the nation. Anderson reportedly played a significant role in creating the hostile work culture that led to the lawsuit. Being tied to such a massive and historic payout might have been a career killer for many execs. But Anderson simply moved to another Atlanta-based corporate titan -- Southern Company, the nation's second largest utility -- and his dubious views on matters of race apparently fit right in with his new employer.
Anderson has gone on to build a "political fortress" in Washington, D.C., where the "capturing" of influential political figures, especially those from the South, is a form of conducting business. One such politician is retired U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), whose mastery of pork-barrel politics made him an extremely wealthy public servant -- a "winner," you might say, in the game of D.C. palm-greasing. The "losers," it appears, are Southern Company's Black ratepayers, who make up a significant portion of the customer base for a firm that is openly hostile to their social and economic interests.
How are Bryan Anderson and Richard Shelby joined at the hip in this "winner takes all" game of racial insensitivity? That is described in a post today at DonaldWatkins.com, under the headline "Bryan D. Anderson: The Southern Company’s Chief Manipulator in Washington." Writes longtime Alabama attorney and entrepreneur Donald Watkins:
Bryan Anderson’s influence peddling facilitates and enhances the Southern Company’s ability to rip off its 9 million customers, with impunity.
Anderson has built an impenetrable political fortress for the Southern Company in Washington. From this fortress, the Southern Company rewards its political friends, attacks its critics, and "captures and controls" the White House, key members of Congress, and various federal agencies (e.g., U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Federal Trade Commission, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Department of Energy, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Agency, etc.) that impact the company's future.
Bryan Anderson uses his puppet-master skills, together with the Southern Company's immense financial resources and entrenched Washington political relationships, to manipulate the federal bureaucracy into advancing and protecting the Southern Company's corporate interests, as dictated by the company to a bevy of greedy politicians and hapless bureaucrats.
Perhaps the No. 1 beneficiary of The Southern Company's influence-peddling game is Alabama's Richard Shelby, Watkins reports:
The Southern Company “buys” or “rents” Democrats and Republicans, alike. Typically, these politicians are “for sale” the moment their right hand comes off the swearing-in Bible.
From 1987 to January 2023, Senator Richard Shelby (R-Alabama) was the Southern Company’s main “go to” guy in Washington. Whatever the Southern Company needed from Congress, or the White House, or any federal regulatory agency, Richard Shelby was able to get it.
This is particularly true with respect to political initiatives that: (a) minimized and/or rolled back consumer-protection rights for Southern Company customers, (b) suppressed environmental-protection rights for the Southern Company’s black and poor white customers, and (c) “fixed” potential criminal cases at the Department of Justice and SEC involving the Southern Company, its affiliates, and their top executives.
Richard Shelby was an original COINTELPRO prosecutor in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, during the 1960s who railroaded thousands of Black defendants in the local municipal-court system in a futile effort to crush Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s civil-rights movement in Alabama.
As a U. S. Senator, Richard Shelby was always ready, willing, and able to limit or suppress the rights of Southern Company customers, particularly those federally protected rights that benefited the company’s Black and poor White customers.
Under Bryan Anderson’s leadership, the Southern Company and its affiliates rewarded Richard Shelby handsomely for flexing his political muscle in Washington on the company’s behalf. Anderson's Washington office funneled campaign contributions, other tangible economic benefits, and a dazzling array of corporate perks to Shelby as a reward for his loyalty and unparalleled political support in Washington.
The amount of "gifting" and "love offerings" that Richard Shelby reportedly garnered from parties affiliated with the Southern Company dwarfed the estimated $3 million in undisclosed "gifts" that U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas received from billionaire Harlan Crow.
Richard Shelby hardly was alone as a captured beneficiary of The Southern Company's largesse. The back-scratching game has affected lawmakers from both sides of the political aisle, Watkins writes:
Richard Shelby’s motto as a Washington politician was simple: “Too much money ain’t never enough.”
Shelby’s ability to get filthy rich from his 44 years as a “public servant,” who was living on a modest government salary as a House member and Senator in Washington, was rivaled only by fellow Southerners, Bill and Hillary Clinton. Shelby never explained the sources and methods of his wealth creation in Washington.
Interestingly, Bill Clinton is one of the operatives in the Southern Company's stable of political "fixers" of criminal cases at Joe Biden's notoriously weak, inept, politicized, and weaponized Department of Justice. Clinton reportedly gets paid $5 million per case to secure non-prosecution agreements from the Department for big Wall Street corporations. These agreements are routinely handed out to big-time Wall Street crooks, no matter which political party is in power.
At the Southern Company’s request, Shelby has also used his considerable political “juice” in Washington to sic a blitzkrieg of federal agencies on critics of the company and/or its affiliates. These agencies dutifully complied with Shelby’s requests, as a matter of political courtesy.
Federal judges in Alabama who received Richard Shelby-sponsored appointments to the federal bench between 1987 and 2022 openly "railroaded" defendants whom Shelby personally targeted for annihilation in their courtrooms. For example, former Chief U.S. District Judge Mark E. Fuller accommodated such a request when he railroaded former Alabama governor Don Siegelman (a Democrat) and former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy in his courtroom during their 2006 trial on phony public corruption charges that were devised, orchestrated, and pushed by White House political operative Karl Rove.
Fuller resigned his judgeship on August 1, 2015 after we exposed his August 10, 2014, arrest in Atlanta for viciously beating his second wife, Kelli, in a drunken rage. As it turned out, Fuller was a serial wife beater.
Bryan Anderson and "de facto" Southern Company CEO Jim Kerr have built what Watkins calls a "political chokehold" on Washington --in part, it seems, because the two men share a thinly veiled antipathy toward people of color, who make up a major segment of their company's customer base. Watkins provides background:
During the 1990s, Bryan D. Anderson had a reputation at The Coca-Cola Company for smiling in the faces of black corporate executives, company employees, and public officials, while reportedly calling them “niggers” behind their backs.
Anderson, a Georgia native, worked at Coca-Cola as Director of Government Relations (1992 to 2002), Assistant Vice President for Government Relations and Public Affairs (2002 to 2004), and Vice President for Government Affairs and Public Relations (2004 to 2010).
During his tenure at The Coca-Cola Company, Anderson reportedly contributed to a corporate culture that was extremely hostile to the company’s Black employees.
This hostile work environment prompted four Black plaintiffs to file a 1999 class action racial discrimination lawsuit against The Coca-Cola Company on behalf of themselves and a class of 2,200 former and current salaried black employees. In general, the lawsuit alleged that Coca-Cola employed racially discriminatory employment practices that limited the professional advancement of Black employees.
The specific allegations in the lawsuit that are relevant to Bryan Anderson's story in this article appear below:
Paragraph 30 of the Complaint: “When a senior-level African-American employee of Coca-Cola moved from Minute Maid to the Company's Atlanta headquarters in 1991, [Coca-Cola CEO M. Douglas] Ivester communicated that the ‘environment’ at the Company ‘isn't very accepting’ and that the African-American employee might hear some racially motivated comments. Ivester went on to say that the Company needed ‘those people’ who might make racist comments.”
Sources who were familiar with the case at the time claimed that Bryan Anderson was one of “those people.”
Paragraph 32 of the Complaint: “For example, in or about 1996 or 1997, one of the few African-American Assistant Vice Presidents attended a meeting in Atlanta with some representatives of the bottling companies. He was the only African-American at the meeting, but high-level Caucasian marketing executives from Coca-Cola were present. The head of marketing of the bottling company for the state of Alabama introduced himself as the "Grand Cyclops" of Alabama. Despite the obvious Ku Klux Klan reference, no Company employee responded to this outrageous comment at the Company meeting. This type of comment highlights the challenges facing African-American employees who are required to work with the bottlers on a regular basis, and who cannot penetrate the glass ceiling or overcome the glass walls because of the connections between these bottling companies and Coca-Cola.”
Sources who knew Bryan Anderson at the time reported that he coddled this brand of racism while working at Coca Cola.
Paragraph 35 of the Complaint: “These discriminatory practices extend to Coca-Cola's relationships with ethnic marketing agencies. Upon information and belief, David Weldon, a Caucasian employee who was then the Vice-President of Advertising, told an African-American advertising agency in or about 1997, words to the effect that ‘I don't hire you to do good advertising, I hire you to do black advertising’ and ‘it's not my fault you are black -- it's yours’."
Sources close to the Southern Company today say that Paragraph 35 fairly reflects the current views of Bryan Anderson on marketing activities and related expenditures within the company. The Southern Company’s Form 10-K for 2022 appears to corroborate this view, as well.
The parties in the Coca-Cola case reached a $192-million settlement that was approved by an Atlanta federal court in June 2001. At the time, the settlement was the largest employment discrimination settlement in the nation’s history.
In addition to the monetary relief, the settlement mandated a sweeping overhaul of Coca-Cola’s hiring and promotional practices, performance evaluation procedures, and employee appeals from adverse performance evaluations and personnel actions.
The lawsuit and resulting settlement overcame a hostile work environment that was reportedly created, in part, by Bryan Anderson and other white Coca-Cola executives of his ilk. The settlement, itself, transformed The Coca-Cola Company into one of the most progressive work environments for racial minorities (and women) in the 21st century.
Anderson continued his climb up the corporate ladder by shifting to The Southern Company, which apparently embraced him --ugly baggage and all. Writes Watkins:
Today, Bryan Anderson is Executive Vice President and President of External Affairs for Southern Company. He Left The Coca-Cola Company and joined the Southern Company in 2010.
Reportedly, Bryan Anderson brought his negative racial views of black executives, black-owned marketing agencies, and black public officials with him to the Southern Company.
We are told that the only blacks Anderson seems to tolerate are the ones he can control and manipulate, regardless of the titles they hold at the Southern Company or offices they occupy in government.
We have confirmed that Chris Womack, the incoming CEO of the Southern Company, is one of these controlled Blacks. For reasons that some Southern Company "insiders" do not fully understand, Womack has prostrated himself to Bryan Anderson's dominion and control.Bryan Anderson also serves on the Southern Company’s Executive Management Council.
Is Southern Company a "customer friendly" outfit? Not exactly, writes Watkins, especially if you have dark skin:
Additionally, Bryan Anderson is responsible for the Southern Company’s branding, corporate communications, public relations, security policy, and additional external affairs functions.
Since joining Southern Company in 2010, Bryan Anderson has directed the company’s political, policy, and regulatory activities in Washington. He also manages the company’s Washington, D.C., office.
Bryan Anderson’s chief job in Washington is to peddle whatever influence is necessary to ensure that the Southern Company’s 9 million customers have as little consumer protections and environmental-justice rights as is possible. The customers of Mississippi Power Company, Alabama Power Company, Georgia Power Company, Southern Gas Company, and the Southern Company’s other service companies pay a lot of money in monthly power and gas bills to support Anderson’s influence peddling in Washington.
An estimated 25% of the Southern Company's 9 million customers are Black. They paid an estimated $15 billion in 2022 in outrageously high electric and gas bills. Yet, the Southern Company has consistently financed politicians on Capitol Hill who eagerly undercut their civil, environmental, and human rights as a course of conduct.
By all accounts, Bryan Anderson is aggressive in his style of influence peddling. No high-ranking Black executive in the Southern Company, including Chris Womack, dares to cross him. Anderson reportedly views Womack as extremely weak and highly compromised in view of Womack's well-known propensity for engaging in inappropriate sexual behavior with the company's female employees and vendors.
Some Southern Company “insiders” liken Bryan Anderson to James Y. “Jim” Kerr, II, the Southern Company’s former Executive Vice President, General Counsel, Chief Compliance Officer, and Chief of Staff to CEO Thomas Fanning. Kerr is an "Old South" racist who now serves as the Chairman, President, and CEO of Southern Gas Company.
Jim Kerr is the top Southern Company executive who was caught on a secret audiotape in 2018 dissing the environmental justice rights of 4,000 mostly black Alabama Power Company customers in the Collegeville, Fairmont, and Harriman Park communities of North Birmingham, Alabama. Kerr smiles in the faces of blacks, but denigrates them in private.
When compared to Jim Kerr, Bryan Anderson is reported to be a smug, Washington-polished, racist on steroids.
What is the current status of "The House that Bryan Anderson and Jim Kerr Built"? You might call it a monument to the power of big money and white privilege. Writes Watkins:
Today, Bryan Anderson operates a Southern Company political and marketing apparatus that has a chokehold on Joe Biden and his Department of Justice. This chokehold reportedly allows the Southern Company to control, stall, and/or kill any enterprise-threatening federal criminal investigations by the Department of Justice and/or the SEC into the Southern Company's business affairs and misconduct.
The political chokehold is a favorite Southern Company weapon of choice. It is routinely deployed at the federal, state, and local levels of government. The chokehold is why no elected or appointed official in federal, state, or local government will oppose a Southern Company political initiative -- no matter how badly the initiative harms the company's 9 million customers.
Finally, the continued presence of Bryan Anderson and Jim Kerr at the Southern Company signals that one of the nation's premier utility companies is a sanctuary for white executives who reportedly harbor furtive racial attitudes towards blacks.
Bryan D. Anderson and Jim Kerr are now the self-appointed and proud guardians of this bastion of "Old South" values in a New York Stock Exchange/Fortune 500 company.
Stay tuned for Part 2 in the Christopher Womack series of investigative articles. It gets much worse for all parties involved.