Paul Pelosi Jr’s Adventures in Pennyland
In mid-January 2022, British tabloid the Daily Mail published a long story about U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s son Paul Jr, in which it was alleged that he’d been involved in a number of shady businesses, some of them targets of Securities and Exchange Commission investigations and enforcement actions. The piece was subsequently picked up by the NY Post and several Republican political organs. We’ll take a look to see if there’s any fire to go along with all the smoke.
Paul Pelosi Jr is the only son of Nancy and Paul Pelosi; their other four children are daughters. (One of them, Alexandra, memorably said of her mother on CNN: “She’ll cut your head off and you won’t even know you’re bleeding.”) Like his siblings, Paul isn’t a kid; he’s 52 and has worked as an attorney and environmentalist since he was in his 20s. He graduated from Georgetown University and has been a member of the California Bar since 1996 and a California real estate broker since 2002. He’s been fairly low-profile in his business and personal life. His sisters Christine and Alexandra are better-known.
At LinkedIn, Paul lists Due Diligence, Corporate Finance, Start-ups, Corporate Development, Venture Capital, New Business Development, Investment Banking, and more as “skills” he possesses, and at which he presumably excels. Early in his career, he worked for Bank of America, but more recently, he’s been associated with smaller enterprises, some of them startups. As everyone who follows the OTC market knows, that choice can present its own dangers.
The Mail says that Paul “was involved in five companies probed by federal agencies—but has never been charged himself,” adding that “[a] shocking paper trail shows Paul Pelosi Jr.’s connections to a host of fraudsters, rule-breakers and convicted criminals.”
In 2007, Paul had a full-time job working as a home loan officer at Countrywide Home Loans in San Mateo. He was nonetheless hired by data collection company InfoUSA as a senior vice president earning $180,000 annually, presumably in addition to his salary from Countrywide. InfoUSA was the creation of Vin Gupta, an Indian immigrant who’d become an enormous success in the ‘80s and ‘90s. Originally called American Business Information (ABI), by 1994, the company traded on the Nasdaq. In 1997, Gupta stepped down as CEO, saying he believed more experienced management was needed.
Nonetheless, he took over once again the next year and renamed the company InfoUSA. In 2008, the name was changed a third time to InfoGROUP. In 2010, Gupta sold the company for $680 million. By then, Gupta had acquired more than 45 companies to combine with InfoGROUP and had expanded operations worldwide.
But not all was sunny at the company. For years, Gupta had treated it as his own private property, arranging for very large amounts of money to be paid to him personally. On March 15, 2010, the SEC sued Gupta, a board member, and two company employees: Vasant H. Raval, former chairman of the audit committee, and Rajnish K. Das and Stormy L. Dean, each of whom had served as CFO of InfoGROUP at different times. How did the SEC become interested? Some shareholders became aware of Gupta’s “perks” and sued him in Chancery Court in Delaware, where InfoUSA/InfoGROUP was incorporated. The SEC learned of the action and opened its own investigation.
The SEC alleged that between 2003 and 2007, the company gave Gupta approximately $9.5 million in unauthorized and undisclosed perquisites. The cost was either billed directly to InfoGROUP or through Annapurna Corporation or Aspen Leasing Services, two entities controlled by him. According to the relative complaint:
Gupta’s expenses that were reimbursed by Info as business expenses included, among many others, costs related to private jet travel to Italy, the Virgin Islands, Cancun, Miami, and Las Vegas; travel and accommodations in South Africa; computers for his sons; 28 club memberships; over 20 automobiles; certain costs associated with a home in Aspen, Colorado and a winery in Napa Valley, California; and personal life insurance policy premiums.
Gupta agreed to pay disgorgement of $4,045,000, prejudgment interest of $1,145,400, and a penalty of $2,240,700 and consented to an order barring him from serving as an officer or director of a public company. Raval also settled with the SEC. At the time the complaints were filed, the case against Das and Dean was ongoing.
So then. What does all this have to do with Paul Pelosi, Jr? Nothing, really. Gupta’s been supportive of Democratic politicians for decades; he and Bill Clinton used to play golf together. He contributed to both Clintons’ political campaigns and hired Bill as a “consultant” once he’d left office. But the Mail cites an earlier investigation; one opened by Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller in 2005. It examined telemarketers who defrauded the vulnerable elderly. Two of the companies Miller considered of interest were InfoUSA and its subsidiary Walter Karl Inc. In 2007, running for the Democratic nomination for the presidency, Hillary Clinton was evidently aware of the investigation and made a point of warning older voters: “We’ve got to send out the alarm: Seniors should be extremely careful in buying anything that someone tries to sell you over the telephone.”
InfoUSA offered its own explanation:
“In response to the Iowa investigation, Walter Karl exited this business and the one sales representative involved in this area left the company,” the infoUSA statement reads. “While infoUSA can not manage what a client does with the publicly available information infoUSA provides, the company has a strict policy about not selling data to companies who act illegally.”
Ultimately, the company was not charged.
Again, all that has nothing to do with Paul Pelosi. He didn’t work for InfoUSA until after the investigation was closed. Probably Gupta admires Nancy Pelosi and was happy to have Paul come on board. But there’s no indication they were friends. According to the Mail, a Newsmax reporter asked Pelosi in 2007 whether Gupta had hired him to get access to his mother. Pelosi replied:
I don’t think that’s really what happens. I don’t see it that way, but I could see why you’d ask the question… I guess you always wonder why somebody hires you, right?
We wonder why he was talking to someone from Newsmax. And—flash forward—why did he spend New Year’s Eve 2018 at Mar-a-Lago, chatting with Ivanka Trump?
Natural Blue Resources
In 2009, just two years after Paul went to work for InfoUSA, he was recruited to help set up an environmental investment company called Natural Blue Resources (NTUR). So he entered Pennyland and entered it in the worst possible way. Presumably, Pelosi found the offer he received attractive because, as the SEC said, Natural Blue’s “purported mission was to create, acquire, or otherwise invest in environmentally friendly companies.”
Who recruited him, along with Toney Anaya, a former New Mexico governor?
Since founding Natural Blue together as a private company, and at all relevant times when it was a public company, [James E.] Cohen and [Joseph A.] Corazzi provided direction to the Company’s board and management. Among other things, Cohen and Corazzi recruited Anaya and Pelosi to serve as officers of the public company, recommended various board members, officers, employees, attorneys, and auditors. Cohen negotiated with third parties (including acquisitions and reverse mergers) on behalf of Natural Blue, participated in board meetings, recruited investors, reviewed and commented on public filings, and had formal authority over Natural Blue’s brokerage account. While Corazzi’s role was not as prominent as Cohen’s, Corazzi also helped to select Anaya (and his successor) as the CEO, recruited investors, handled press releases, managed the Natural Blue website, reviewed and commented on public filings, and negotiated a business transaction with a Massachusetts-based company that resulted in new management.
A few short minutes with a good search engine, or at the SEC website, would have shown Pelosi and Anaya they’d fallen in with a bad lot. Cohen had once been a registered representative who’d worked for a number of brokerages but, in the end, was barred from the profession after a 2004 criminal conviction for attempted enterprise corruption and attempted grand larceny. Pelosi himself had been a broker for about 10 years; it would have been easy for him to check Cohen out.
Corazzi was even more colorful. In the 1990s, he’d served as Chairman and CEO of one of the funniest OTC scams of all time, Las Vegas Entertainment Network (LVEN). In its NTUR litigation, the SEC says only that Corazzi’s old company was “sued by the Commission for fraudulently overstating its assets,” but what really happened went far beyond that. The fun began with a $95 million unsolicited bid made by Corazzi/LVEN for Jackpot Enterprises, a Las Vegas entity.
It turned out that part of the $95 million would be supplied by a mysterious but fabulously wealthy man called Dr. Fred Cruz. Cruz had his own company, called Countryland Wellness Resorts, which claimed it had sold a mine it owned for $2.7 billion in treasury bills and certificates of deposit issued by… the Dominion of Melchizedek. The DOM was a fake country that did—and still does—describe itself as an “ecclesiastical sovereignty.” Like the Vatican, except that its only properties are some atolls in the Pacific Ocean. We are not making this up:
The Company sold its mining interests in Plumas County, California to a foreign ecclasiastical [sic] sovereignty in exchange for Treasury Bills (“T-Bills”) having a face value of $2,418,000,000.00, issued by the Dominion of Melchizedek (“DOM”). The T-Bills, payable without interest, mature on May 27, 2005.
The Company has booked the T-Bills at face value. As additional consideration, DOM has credited the account of the Company 300,000,000.00 Dominion Dollars (the official currency of DOM), from which the Company has acquired a 5 year Certificate of Deposit issued by the DOM state owned and licensed bank, Bank of Salem. Bank of Salem is not licensed within the United States of America, nor is it associated with any U.S.A. bank. The exchange rate for Dominion Dollars of the Dominion of Melchizedek is one Dominion Dollar to one U.S. Dollar. Additional information regarding the sale of the mining properties is contained in the Company’s Form 10Q filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission for the period ending March 31, 2000, dated May 15, 2000.
Pelosi and Anaya were, evidently, unable to look that up at Edgar. Nor, apparently, were they capable of finding this article about the scam from the Las Vegas Sun, though in fairness, it doesn’t reference Corazzi. Nor did it reveal that Dr. Fred—he was a podiatrist—Cruz had been jailed four times for fraud, or that he claimed to own $1.1 billion in Indonesian Bank Guarantees that yielded 9 percent interest daily. But the truth is out there, and the new NTUR officers could have found it.
The LVEN story ended when the SEC sued the company, Corazzi, and two other officers for fraud on October 8, 2002. For good measure, the SEC revoked LVEN’s registration at a time when that was an unusual step to take. The agency also sued Cruz and Countryland, though Cruz died not long after. The complaint noted that “dirt stored in a warehouse was reported as gold with a value ranging from $19.5 million to over $27.3 million,” and that “Indonesian bank guarantees were reported to have values ranging from $400 million to $1.1 billion; in fact, the bank guarantees did not exist.” The Sun reported on that news as well, in a piece that clarified a number of issues concerning Cruz.
And yet Pelosi and Anaya, unable to figure all this out and apparently unaware that it would make sense to pay for some background checks, gladly signed on with Corazzi and Cohen. Pelosi would be the president of the company. Corazzi and Cohen’s fraudulent scheme began in 2009 and continued until July 2014, when the SEC brought an administrative action against the company, Cohen, and Corazzi. It’s likely that had Anaya not been a former governor and Pelosi the son of a prominent member of Congress, the Commission would have chosen to sue in federal court instead.
The thrust of the action was clear and simple:
Since founding Natural Blue together as a private company, and at all relevant times when it was a public company, Cohen and Corazzi provided direction to the Company’s board and management. Among other things, Cohen and Corazzi recruited Anaya and Pelosi to serve as officers of the public company, recommended various board members, officers, employees, attorneys, and auditors. Cohen negotiated with third parties (including acquisitions and reverse mergers) on behalf of Natural Blue, participated in board meetings, recruited investors, reviewed and commented on public filings, and had formal authority over Natural Blue’s brokerage account. While Corazzi’s role was not as prominent as Cohen’s, Corazzi also helped to select Anaya (and his successor) as the CEO, recruited investors, handled press releases, managed the Natural Blue website, reviewed and commented on public filings, and negotiated a business transaction with a Massachusetts-based company that resulted in new management.
Pelosi testified against Corazzi and Cohen. As a side note, Toney Anaya is not the only governor of New Mexico to get involved with a scam company in recent years. One of his successors, Bill Richardson, found himself serving on the board of the appalling Miller Energy Resources (MILLQ; registration eventually revoked). Richardson did realize MILL was problematic, but he went ahead and accepted the job. Which did no real good for anyone.
Though Pelosi claims in his LinkedIn profile that due diligence is one of his skills, that is obviously not true. On October 30, 2013, an Atlanta company called FOGFuels announced that Paul had been appointed vice-chairman of its board and as a “speaker on environmental policies.” The company purported to have developed what it called the “FOG2D™ process” to “effectively remove fats oils and greases (FOG) from wastewater streams.” The resulting “advanced biodiesel” could power vehicles like—you guessed it—school buses.
But did Pelosi make any attempt at all to check out the company’s founder and managing director, Paul Marshall? Only six weeks earlier, on September 11, 2013, the SEC had sued him in federal court, along with three of his companies: Bridge Securities, LLC a/k/a Bridge Financial; Bridge Equity, Inc., and FOGFuels, Inc.
The Commission’s complaint alleged that Marshall, as an investment adviser representative of the Bridge entities, had misappropriated at least $2 million from his clients, some of whom were elderly. He used their money to “pay for various personal expenses, including luxury trips, child support and alimony payments to his former wife, cash transfers to his current wife, and private school tuition and camps for his children.”
Marshall had even succeeded in talking the city of Atlanta into funding his FOGFuels idea. By 2018, city council members were being subpoenaed, and questions were being asked about the “nature of his relationship to the mayor’s deputy chief of staff: Katrina Taylor Parks.” The year before, he’d been indicted on 14 counts of wire fraud. In May 2018, Marshall was sentenced to a term of six years in federal prison for his crimes against his elderly investors.
Targeted Medical Pharma
In 2014, Pelosi agreed to serve as an independent director of Targeted Medical Pharma (TRGM), an SEC registrant located in Los Angeles. He was nominated for a directorship in the company in a proxy statement noting that his “extensive background in the public securities markets and in working with emerging companies, as well as his education and experience in business law and public policy leads us to conclude that he would make a significant contribution as a director.” He was elected to the post on June 6, 2014. He resigned seven months later, on February 2, 2015.
On March 29, 2017, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sent a warning letter to Targeted Medical, objecting that the company was improperly testing one of its products, Theramine, on human subjects. The agency insisted that Theramine was a drug; TRGM responded that it was, on the contrary, a “medical food.” The FDA took no further steps. However, the company is in trouble. Although it saved itself from possible revocation of registration by filing a Form 15 with the SEC, it’s now providing no public disclosure at all, and so trades on OTC Markets’ Expert tier, without market makers or published quotations.
Asa Saint Clair
It seems that for the moment, at least, the public companies Pelosi is involved in are not problematic in the way his earlier ventures turned out to be. He did, however, manage to fall for a different kind of scammer in a different kind of investment. According to the Daily Mail, he put a new gig on his LinkedIn profile: full-time work as a “Business Development Executive” of the Corporate Governance Initiative (CGI). It’s briefly described in an SEC filing from a few years ago as “an organization committed to assisting organizations to adhere to a system of guidelines, practices, and procedures by which a company is directed.” He has by now removed the reference to CGI at LinkedIn.
Somehow or other, Pelosi and CGI allowed themselves to be taken in by a character called Asa Saint Clair. (Or, as he seems to prefer, “His Excellency Asa Saint Clair.”) Saint Clair had created his own cryptocurrency called IGOBit. He touted it by claiming ties to a United Nations affiliate conceived to promote development in the third world through sports. Investors were promised guaranteed returns and an ownership in IGOBit.
That, at least, is what Geoffrey Berman, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said when he indicted Saint Clair on November 6, 2019. According to the indictment:
From 2017 through September 2019, SAINT CLAIR solicited investors for the launch of IGOBIT through promised investment returns and representations about World Sports Alliance’s development projects around the world. World Sports Alliance did not in fact participate in any international development projects and SAINT CLAIR did not dedicate investor funds to IGOBIT. Instead, SAINT CLAIR diverted those funds to other entities controlled by him and members of his family, as well as to pay his personal expenses, including dinners at Manhattan restaurants, airline tickets, and online shopping.
We sense a pattern here. Why has Pelosi so often fallen for con men running what are essentially Ponzi schemes? People who don’t even make a pretense of running a business? Why wouldn’t he, with all his self-proclaimed expertise, notice that?
Paul ran a very large endorsement at his own website, in which he said, “When combined with the ability to sustain the planet through its support of the Sustainable Development Goals, IGOBit is the absolute best offering I have ever seen.” That is gibberish. Embarrassing gibberish.
We don’t think Paul Pelosi Jr is a bad person. But he is certainly bad at what he does, at least when public companies and public or private offerings are concerned. Over the years, he’s been appointed to the boards of public companies not mentioned here. They weren’t run by crooks—at least no one was arrested—but they weren’t successful, either. An example would be Freedom Leaf (FRLF), a penny stock in the hemp business. In 2017, it appointed Pelosi chairman of the board. It seems everyone’s intentions were good. But the company did poorly, and Pelosi, evidently unable to help, was gone by 2019. A name change to GL Brands (GRLB) didn’t turn things around.
The company’s bankruptcy plan became effective on June 29, 2021, and all its shares were cancelled.
Perhaps Pelosi needs to find another way to save the planet.
For further information about this securities law blog post, please contact Brenda Hamilton, Securities Attorney at 200 E. Palmetto Park Rd, Suite 103, Boca Raton, Florida, (561) 416-8956, by email [email protected] or visit www.securitieslawyer101.com. This securities law blog post is provided as a general informational service to clients and friends of Hamilton & Associates Law Group and should not be construed as and does not constitute legal advice on any specific matter, nor does this message create an attorney-client relationship. Please note that the prior results discussed herein do not guarantee similar outcomes.