Minutes after the guilty verdicts were handed down, we, the CDLU, wrote to Tom Fanning, the CEO of Southern Company and his General Counsel and Chief Compliance Officer Jim Kerr:
“Time for us to talk again…and straighten out this mess for the good of Southern Company, for the good of OUR community.”
Southern Company and its subsidiaries are one of Balch’s largest clients.
The CDLU will embark on an aggressive community effort to force Balch clients, especially heavily regulated businesses, to immediate suspend all legal and transaction services with Balch & Bingham whose equity partner Joel I. Gilbert was found guilty on all 6 charges including bribery and money laundering on Friday evening.
The bribery scheme was done to discourage residents in North Birmingham from testing their toxic property by the EPA. With a population that is 92.5 African-American, North Birmingham appears to have been a victim of institutional racism.
The CDLU had reported the bombshell news that Joel I. Gilbert was still on Balch’s payroll last February, and the fact was confirmed by Balch’s managing partner Stan Blanton, who fired Gilbert on Friday evening.
With absolute arrogance and impunity, Balch was funding this now “ex-partner.” No amount of sugar-coating will change the fact that the leadership at Balch & Bingham appears to have supported those accused of deplorable conduct instead of swiftly investigating their alleged conduct and firing them.
Balch & Bingham has become a third-party risk.
The CDLU will be following up on the phone and via email with leaders at BBVA in Madrid, Spain, one of the largest banking institutions in the world and owners of BBVA Compass, a Balch client. In May, the CDLU spoke to and wrote to BBVA in a bilingual message about possible violations of BBVA’s Code of Conduct.
In addition, the CDLU will follow-up with institutional investors on Wall Street and brief them about the convictions. Balch & Bingham appears to have refused to change a culture of aggressive arrogance and impunity. And no one better exemplified that culture than Joel I. Gilbert.
Balch’s conduct is simply unacceptable.