This story originally appeared in The Daily Beast newsletter Pay Dirt. Sign up for that newsletter: HERE.
It’s been two months since a judge demanded financial records from a high-dollar corporate donor to a leading pro-Trump super PAC. But that company still hasn’t produced records that might show why its top executive is donating big sums to national Republicans while he’s still hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt.
The company, Global Energy Producers LLC (GEP), was a top donor this cycle to America First Action, which was highly active on behalf of midterm Senate candidates supportive of President Donald Trump. One of its top executives, a politically connected Republican named Lev Parnas, has won audiences with the president and prominent Trumpworld figures this year.
Parnas is a five-figure GOP donor in his own right. But now a former business associate of his wants to know why GEP and its executives are throwing around all this cash while Parnas still owes that associate more than $500,000 from a years-old federal lawsuit. Now a judge in Florida wants to know, too: He’s demanded that GEP produce significant internal financial records.
The legal wrangling could offer a glimpse into the structure and workings of GEP, a new and relatively obscure company that hopes to cash in on Trump’s plans to boost energy exports to Europe—and is making hefty political contributions to bolster its standing in Washington.
GEP drew attention over the summer when it donated $325,000 to America First, $50,000 to a PAC supporting Rep. Ron DeSantis (the now-governor-elect of Florida), $15,000 to a super PAC spending in the U.S. Senate race in West Virginia, and $20,000 to a pair of state-level candidates in Nevada.
Parnas chipped in $20,000 to Republican candidates and political groups this cycle, on top of the $50,000 he donated to a joint fundraising committee for the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee in 2016.
Those donations came even as a former business associate sought to collect a huge federal judgment against Parnas. The legal dispute originated in 2010 with a film project for which Parnas attempted to recruit investors. According to federal court records, one investor was courted with tactics that included a dinner with actor Jack Nicholson. But the film project still has not materialized, and in 2011 the investor, Michael Pues, sued Parnas to recoup his money, provided from a Pues family trust’s retirement account. In 2015, a federal court awarded Pues a judgment that has, with interest, swelled to more than $500,000. A federal appeals court subsequently upheld the decision.
Parnas has yet to pay that judgment. So when PAY DIRT first reported his involvement with GEP, and its six-figure donation to America First, Pues filed a new motion in a court in Florida’s Palm Beach County, where he has sought to enforce the ruling against Parnas. Pues is seeking information about GEP’s finances, leadership structure, and Parnas’ involvement with the group.
In late July, Pues’ lawyer announced his intent to subpoena GEP for “all documents signed by Lev Parnas on behalf of” GEP, such as “bank deposit agreements, political action committee finance documents, checks, leases, and operating agreements.” He also asked for a “list of all officers/managers” and all correspondence involving Parnas since April 1, 2018.
The subpoena requested those records be turned over to Pues’ lawyers by Sept. 14. But more than a month later, Pues’ attorney said he had heard nothing from the company about the requested documents. He filed a motion with the court demanding the records be produced. Neither Parnas nor GEP opposed the motion in court, and the judge granted it. He ordered that the company comply with the subpoena by Nov. 1, and warned that it would be held in contempt if it didn’t.
Two weeks after that deadline, GEP still hadn’t produced those records. Pues filed a motion to hold the company in contempt. The court has yet to hold a hearing on the motion, but GEP denies that it’s in violation of the court’s order. Though the company is well past the court-imposed deadline, a spokesperson told PAY DIRT that Chris Draper, an attorney for both Parnas and GEP, has been in contact with Pues’ attorneys to sort out the scope of the subpoena.
“Global Energy Producers has always complied with all appropriate financial disclosure laws and will continue to do so,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “Mr. Parnas has responded to the specific subpoena as attorneys for both sides are in constant communication and working in partnership towards an amenable agreement.”
Pues’ attorney, Tony André of the André Law Firm in Aventura, Florida, says that is simply untrue. “This is a lie,” he said after presented with GEP’s statement. He acknowledged having been in touch with Draper, but said Draper never actually acknowledged in their discussions that he was representing GEP, and that they never discussed the subpoena of the company.
“In fact,” he told PAY DIRT in an interview, “the last email that I sent to Mr. Draper, before I sent the motion to compel, I said ‘To be clear, you represent Global Energy Producers? Because there’s an outstanding subpoena that is overdue.’ He never responded.”
Emails reviewed by PAY DIRT confirm Draper and André were in touch about the case in the weeks after the judge ordered GEP to produce internal records. But the emails don’t mention that subpoena or GEP at all.
André is set to depose another GEP executive, Igor Fruman, in January, court records indicate. GEP’s spokesperson maintains that the case is “a completely unrelated and independent issue concerning an investment in a film, in which Mr. Parnas and a previous entity of his were the only damaged party.”
Fruman and Parnas incorporated the company in Delaware in April, and hope to use the company to capitalize on Trump’s plan to export more natural gas to Europe, where both GEP executives have business connections.
At the same time, Parnas appears to have won access to a number of high-profile Republican officials. He’s been spotted this year hobnobbing with U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, and American Conservative Union Chairman Matt Schlapp. Parnas and Fruman also attended a Trump campaign event in early 2018 at the president’s Mar-a-Lago estate.
Despite multiple federal court judgments against him, Parnas maintains that he was the wronged party in his business dealings with Pues, and he says he plans to file a new lawsuit in the dispute. “All legal remedies will be exercised in order to expose the truth—which will ultimately vindicate Mr. Parnas,” GEP’s spokesperson said.
That new lawsuit will be filed in California, and a source familiar with plans for the litigation said its “related parties” will include “A-list Hollywood celebrities.”
Get the data: