By: Donald V. Watkins
Copyrighted and Published on April 29, 2023
On April 28, 2023, I amended a criminal complaint that was filed with Fulton County, Georgia District Attorney Fani T. Willis on April 13, 2023. The complaint alleged that the Southern Company has operated a decade-long racketeering enterprise and massive $27 billion accounting fraud scheme.
The Amendment added allegations that Southern Company executives organized and participated in an extortion scheme that attempted to force the resignation of Southern Company CEO Thomas A. Fanning in 2017. A major component of the scheme was the unlawful surveillance on Kimberly Ann Tanaka, Fanning's girlfriend at the time. Certain aspects of the surveillance program continued through September of 2022.
The Amendment also alleged that, commencing in late 2022, Fanning and James Y. “Jim” Kerr, II, orchestrated a “hush money” payments scheme in which Southern Company money was funneled to Tanaka through a third-party vendor for a “no show” job. The purpose of the "hush money" payments was to silence Tanaka about the unlawful surveillance of her during the failed extortion scheme.
At the time Ms. Tanaka was spied on, Jim Kerr was Fanning’s executive vice president, general counsel, chief compliance officer, and chief of staff. Fanning believed that Kerr was one of his close friends when, in fact, Kerr was the top Southern Company official who greenlighted the attempted coup d’état against Fanning in 2017.
Had the coup d'tat succeeded in 2017, Fanning would have been replaced by then-Alabama Power Company CEO Mark Crosswhite, who was Jim Kerr's close friend and corporate ally. Kerr wanted to succeed Crosswhite as CEO of Alabama Power.
Crosswhite was fired three months after word of the Southern Company's surveillance of Kimberly Tanaka and Fanning spilled into the public domain for the first time in an article we published on August 3, 2022.
A New Development in the "Hush Money" Scandal
After we filed the Amendment with District Attorney Fani T. Willis, new evidence surfaced late Friday afternoon suggesting that at least one board member may have been informally briefed on the “hush money” scheme in real-time. However, this board member did not formally report the "hush money" scheme to the full board or any law enforcement agency, even though the payments were directly tied to an effort to cover up an extortion attempt that was sanctioned by Kerr.
If any board member knew of the “hush money” payments scheme and extortion attempt, but did not report these matters to the company’s full board of directors or an appropriate law enforcement agency, then such a board member is an accomplice to the coverup of the attempted extortion scheme.
Several of the board members are attorneys who knew or should have known that covering up an extortion attempt is a crime itself.
In light of our April 24, 2023 and April 27, 2023 articles exposing their “hush money” scheme, Thomas Fanning and Kerr have concocted a plan to shift the legal blame for the scheme to Lead Independent board member David J. Grain. Reportedly, they told Grain about the scheme in an informal setting.
Kerr and Grain were listed as culpable parties in the original criminal complaint filed with District Attorney Willis on April 13th.
The only two parties who reported any aspect of this matter to law enforcement officials are Kimberly Tanaka, via a police report to the Roswell Police Department, and me, via a criminal complaint filed with District Attorney Willis..
Fanning and His Southern Company Minions Are Privately Trashing Ms. Tanaka
Presently, certain Southern Company board members and subordinate officials have joined Thomas Fanning in a private whisper campaign against Ms. Tanaka that is aimed at besmirching her character and denigrating her as a woman.
By all accounts, Ms. Tanaka is a highly respected and well-regarded Georgia native. She is a first-class, professionally trained, highly credentialed, and certified fitness trainer. Tanaka is a Georgia native and a graduate of the University of Georgia. She also holds Personal Trainer certifications from the American Council on Exercise (ACE) and the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM).
Kimberly Tanaka also enjoys recognition and respect in her own right on Georgia’s political scene. Her photo below with Georgia Governor Brian Kemp clearly establishes this fact.
Fanning Plans to Exit the Southern Company with a $100 Million Retirement Package
On April 24, 2023, NBCUniversal fired CEO Jeff Shell, whose inappropriate interaction with CNBC correspondent Hadley Gamble cost Shell a loss of $43 million in compensation. Shell was on the receiving end of a sexual harassment complaint, which happened to be true.
NBCUniversal acknowledged in an SEC filing on Friday that Shell forfeited vested and unvested stock options with an “estimated fair value of $43.3 million as of the termination date.” Shell did not receive any supplemental payments, benefits, or earned bonuses in connection with his termination.
Shell only received accrued but unpaid base salary and vacation time, vested employee benefits and reimbursement for any unreimbursed business expenses in accordance with his employment agreement.
In Thomas Fanning’s case, he is departing the Southern Company on May 24, 2023. Fanning was a willing participant in an unlawful “hush money” scheme that used Southern Company money to pay Kimberly Tanaka, an innocent party. The Southern Company is a publicly traded company and this "hush money" belonged to its shareholders.
Fanning failed to report to his full board of directors or any law enforcement agency an attempt by Southern Company subordinates, including Jim Kerr, to extort him and force him into an early retirement in 2017.
In addition to criminal laws that make it a crime to pay “hush money” for the purpose of concealing an underlying crime like extortion, stalking/spying, and criminal trespass, Fanning’s conduct violated these Southern Company operating policies:
1. "Company resources are for business purposes and company-approved activities."
2. "We do not use our position, company resources or information for personal benefit."
3. "Any potential conflicts of interest must be disclosed promptly to management." In Fanning’s case, Jim Kerr, who had his own conflicts of interest, was covering up Fanning’s conflicts of interest.
4. "All business records and accounts will be complete, accurate and based on proper accounting principles." "Hush money" payments are a per se violation of this operating policy. Using corporate funds of a publicly traded company for "hush money" payments is a criminal act.
5. "Any attempt to conceal, omit or make false entries in the records will not be tolerated."
The “hush money” scheme violated all of these Southern Company operating policies, and many more.
Yet, Southern Company board members, under pressure from Fanning, plan to award him a retirement package that is valued at up to $100 million, all of which is tainted in fraud. These board members have no plans to claw back any component of Fanning's retirement package.
After Thomas Fanning retires on May 24, 2023, I plan to amend my complaint with District Attorney Fani T. Willis, once again, to add every board member who votes to award Fanning a retirement package beyond his accrued but unpaid base salary and vacation time, vested employee benefits and reimbursement for any unreimbursed business expenses.
Somebody must protect the stakeholder rights of the Southern Company’s 9 million customers, and I am happy to do it. This is their money, and every dollar of this money is sacred. If it takes the prosecution of a criminal complaint to force the Southern Company to comply with its own Code of Ethics, operating policies, and the Georgia criminal code, so be it.
When Thomas Fanning leaves the Southern Company, he will discover that the people he thought were his close friends DO NOT give a damn about him. They were "sunshine" friends who only used Fanning, like he used his 9 million Southern Company customers.
The company's 9 million customers paid dearly for Fanning's $28 billion worth of mistakes on two Southern Company construction projects (i.e., the Kemper, Mississippi coal gasification project, which never operated and is presently being demolished, and Units 3 and 4 at the Vogtle Nuclear Power Plant near Waynesboro, Georgia, which are $21 billion over-budget and seven years behind schedule).
One-third of these 9 million customers live at or below the poverty level. Yet, they supported Fanning's extravagant lifestyle and his $28 billion in managerial mistakes because they had no choice.
Fanning is an elitist and his sidekick, Jim Kerr, is a bona fide racist. Both men are expected to catch pure hell in their legal entanglements after Fanning steps down as CEO.
Stay tune for more explosive news about these men!