Isakson contacted FBI on behalf of MiMedx CEO

U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson
U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson

U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson contacted the FBI last year on behalf of a politically connected Atlanta area CEO engaged in a battle with a short-seller who had criticized the CEO and his Cobb County company, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.

A spokeswoman for Isakson confirmed to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Georgia’s senior senator called the bureau in October 2017 about a complaint filed by then-MiMedx CEO Parker “Pete” Petit against Marc Cohodes, a California-based investor who had alleged misconduct and financial mismanagement by Petit’s company.

Petit had alleged Cohodes sent threatening tweets. In December of last year, a pair of FBI agents arrived at Cohodes’ home and warned him to stop.

Cohodes alleged Petit used his political connections to silence a critic. He denied threatening Petit and said that the tweets were taken out of context. Petit has been a campaign donor to Isakson and other Republicans in addition to being the 2016 campaign finance chairman in Georgia for President Donald Trump.

“I think Senator Isakson needs to resign immediately and turn over everything he has, his correspondence with Parker Petit, and the SEC, the FBI and my name to a special investigator so that everything comes out,” Cohodes told the AJC.

The episode was a bizarre chapter in a year that’s seen MiMedx rocked by allegations of wrongdoing and Petit lose his job as the company’s CEO.

Parker “Pete” Petit. SPECIAL
Parker “Pete” Petit. SPECIAL

MiMedx makes tissues from donated placentas for wound care and other uses and was once a high-flyer among Georgia public companies. But MiMedx has been under siege for months after Cohodes and others have alleged financial wrongdoing. Former employees alleged the company participated in improper sales practices, including alleged over-shipping of products to U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals.

The company is currently under scrutiny by several federal agencies, including the Department of Justice, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the VA and the Food and Drug Administration.

Earlier this month, MiMedx said it would eliminate 240 jobs, about a quarter of its workforce, and realign its business around its wound care unit.

In June, MiMedx said it would restate more than five years of earnings reports, and the company has not issued any quarterly earnings reports this year.

Petit and the company's then-president, Bill Taylor, resigned in July after results from an internal probe steered by the MiMedx board of directors.

Amanda Maddox, a spokeswoman for Isakson, said in an email that the senator “made a phone call to the FBI to inquire about the status of the complaint” after Petit told Isakson about the matter.

“Senator Isakson did not request a specific outcome but merely asked that the FBI respond to Mr. Petit,” Maddox said.

Maddox described the exchange as routine constituent services to contact a federal agency on a constituent’s behalf.

Asked how often Isakson personally contacts the FBI for constituent complaints, Maddox said “we only get a handful of requests a year like this one, but Senator Isakson frequently picks up the phone to call a federal agency on behalf of a constituent needing assistance or seeking an update or response to an inquiry.”

On Nov. 20, 2017, Isakson’s office also sent a letter to the FBI providing new details shared with the senator’s office by a MiMedx staffer, Maddox said.

“A few months after our constituent casework inquiry made on Nov. 20, 2017, we got the standard response from the FBI stating it cannot comment on an investigation or confirm that there is one,” Maddox said Thursday. “There was no additional follow up with the constituent based on the response we received as it was months later, and our office considered the matter closed.”

Emails Cohodes obtained from a Freedom of Information Act request that were heavily redacted by the FBI shows Isakson staffers had repeated contacts with the FBI in October and November.

Representatives for Petit did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The contact with the FBI isn’t the first time Isakson has faced questions about his efforts to assist Petit.

On Dec. 13, the AJC reported Isakson, who chairs the powerful Senate Veterans Affairs committee, asked a committee staffer to look into a complaint by Petit regarding a change in Veterans Affairs policy that could cost MiMedx business.

Maddox said then the senator asked the staffer to inquire and was satisfied by what the official learned following a briefing with VA officials.

Marietta-based MiMedx Group sells human tissue grafts. ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM
Marietta-based MiMedx Group sells human tissue grafts. ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM