Steve Bannon, so-called populist, operated a shady penny stock venture in the early-2000s

A vocal critic of Wall Street's shadiness, Donald Trump's top ally once exploited small businesses for sport

By Brendan Gauthier
Published November 29, 2016 4:55PM (EST)
Steve Bannon, campaign CEO for President-elect Donald Trump, leaves Trump Tower, Friday, Nov. 11, 2016, in New York. (AP)
Steve Bannon, campaign CEO for President-elect Donald Trump, leaves Trump Tower, Friday, Nov. 11, 2016, in New York. (AP)

Steve Bannon has worn many hats: Breitbart News chairman, Donald Trump's chief campaign strategist, "Seinfeld" royalties collector. Such a renaissance man is bound to eventually run into contradiction.

For instance, in the 1980s, Bannon — populist and "economic nationalist" — worked as an investment banker at Goldman Sachs, and later tried his hand at the penny stock market.

From Politico:

These penny-stock firms employed some of the complex corporate maneuvers favored by financial masters of the universe — trans-national acquisitions, reverse mergers and asset purchase agreements — though on a much smaller scale. Most of the companies failed to take off, often in the throes of legal troubles, in the years before Bannon emerged as a populist critic of financial wizardry run amok and failures to prosecute Wall Street executives.

In the early 2000s, Bannon and business partner Andy Badolato consulted, advised, and served as board members of several small businesses ahead of their IPOs.

One such company was SinoFresh. Bannon and co. started advising the homeopathic nasal spray producer in 2003, ahead of its IPO. According to Politico, the "partnership . . . soon soured" after "the company’s founder, Charles Fust, uncovered an alleged scheme by Badolato to rob him of a million shares of stock by putting it under the control of a corporation registered in Belize and controlled by a Costa Rica-based businessman named Jonathan Curshen."

After Fust tried to remove Bannon from SinoFresh's board of directors, Bannon responded with a baseless lawsuit claiming Fust had used company money to buy an engagement ring. Bannon was eventually reinstated to the board and the lawsuit was thrown out.

A Florida court awarded Fust the disputed shares, but SinoFresh "was roiled by the dispute and performed poorly. Eventually its stock stopped trading altogether in 2011," according to Politico.

Brendan Gauthier

Brendan Gauthier is a freelance writer.

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Donald Trump Finance Goldman Sachs Penny Stocks Steve Bannon Wall Street