The legal team representing Burt Newsome, the sole-practitioner attorney that was allegedly wrongly targeted, falsely arrested, and defamed in an alleged conspiracy spearheaded by a Balch & Bingham partner, has met with prominent and respected RICO attorneys outside Alabama, including a former U.S. Attorney whose “mouth-dropped” by the alleged criminal behavior, according to anonymous sources.
As Southern Company has gravely ignored the third-party risk of Balch & Bingham, a federal RICO lawsuit could expose internal misconduct, liabilities and other risks to shareholders.
One focus would be on the alleged criminal obstruction of justice and alleged alteration of evidence by attorney Robert M. Ronnlund whose wife was a partner at Balch & Bingham when both incidents occurred.
On December 11, 2017, Southern Company announced Millicent Ronnlund had left Balch to become the General Counsel at Nuclear Southern, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Southern Company.
Although Jim Kerr, Southern Company’s General Counsel and Chief Compliance Officer, denied any connection of Southern Company to the Newsome Conspiracy Case in our phone call in January, the CDLU confronted him about the appointment of Ms. Ronnlund only weeks before and outlined the alleged criminal obstruction of justice by her husband.
Now with the revelations of the alleged alteration of evidence, the questions that need to be answered by investigators are:
- Did Balch or Southern Company ever pay, compensate, reward, or support in any way attorney Robert M. Ronnlund directly or indirectly through a separate, pay-through entity? If so, who approved it?
- Was the position of General Counsel at Southern Nuclear open to others including minorities?
- At the end, why was Ronnlund’s wife chosen over any other qualified candidates, if any?
Another revelation : Alabama Power donated $2,500 to Alabama State Senator Rodger Smitherman, the husband of the presiding judge of the Newsome Conspiracy Case, Judge Carole Smitherman, at the same time Balch was pushing for the sealing of the Newsome Conspiracy case.
Alabama Power’s donation, the fifth questionable contribution, was held under wraps as a courtesy to Tom Fanning, the CEO of Southern Company who called us in November. The donation was the first one made in this “series” of “coincidental” contributions.
As we told the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. in January while providing the affirming documentation:
Alabama Power provided $2,500 to Rodger Smitherman on July 26, 2017. The PAC, [was] run at the time by a former Balch partner, Alexia Borden. On July 31, Balch filed a motion to strike the amended Newsome case from late July. A hearing was set for August 31, 2017, but Judge Carole Smitherman, without a hearing, approved the motion to strike on August 2, a miscarriage of justice. In between these events, the alleged [contribution] and the signed order to strike, Smitherman apparently joined her husband on a junket to Biloxi, Mississippi. According to his expenditure reports, he spent resources to attend the Southern Legislative Conference between July 29 [through] August 2, 2017. A preliminary review of the photos on the SLC site seem to show that neither Smitherman attended any of the events.
Last year, Tom Fanning received a 39 percent vote of no confidence at the annual shareholders meeting.
If a RICO lawsuit is filed at the eve of this year’s meeting, leading to a possible federal probe, and intense Wall Street scrutiny especially about third-party risk due to the sister-wife relationship between Southern and Balch, plus other controversies (including the Vogtle Nuclear Plant cost overruns, Kemper Clean-Coal Plant debacle, and Atlanta airport transformer explosion), will Tom Fanning survive a vote of no confidence this year?
In other words, how will Tom Fanning show bold leadership and inherent goodness with two weeks to go?