Scott Brown might have attracted less scrutiny by taking a seat on the board of tobacco giant Philip Morris than by getting in bed with a penny stock company.
Did he not watch “The Wolf of Wall Street”?
Brown resigned abruptly Wednesday from the advisory board of Global Digital Solutions Inc., days after a Globe story exposed how he lent his name to an outfit with no products or revenue. For this, our former Massachusetts senator got stock that at one time was worth $1.3 million.
Penny stocks are notorious for luring investors with the thrill of get-rich-quick schemes. Just last month the SEC issued a warning about them. But you don’t have to be Warren Buffett to figure out these are high-risk ventures often operated by sketchy characters.
I don’t know if Global Digital, a beauty-supply company turned firearms maker, is the next Google or Enron, but people of New Hampshire, you deserve a senator with more common sense than this.
What should also infuriate you is that he wants your vote, but refuses to explain how or why he got involved with Global Digital. In fact, you won’t know for months how he has been making his living since a certain Harvard professor ran him out of Massachusetts. That’s because Brown has delayed releasing his financial disclosure forms until August. Maybe he’s made so much money in the private sector that he’s afraid some opponent will call him an elitist hypocrite.
What is he afraid of? Is he protecting the people who got him this unsavory gig? You don’t get called out of the blue to serve on a corporate board; it’s who you know. And somebody knew somebody to get Brown to sit pretty for Wall Street.
If you take a look at the board and officers of Global Digital, there appear to be plenty of connections between the West Palm Beach, Fla., firm and Massachusetts.
Let’s start at the top with chief executive Dick Sullivan and the firm’s future president, Jennifer Carroll. Sullivan is from around here, talks like many of us, and up until his divorce, summered at a $2.6 million Buzzards Bay compound. He is also an entrepreneur in residence with Accretive Exit Partners, a Boston company that finances mid-stage private companies.
Carroll is the former Florida lieutenant governor who was forced to resign last spring after a charity scandal. She was also a Mitt Romney cheerleader, serving as a national co-chair of his Black Leadership Council during his presidential bid in 2012.
A month after leaving office, she joined Global Digital as a senior adviser, and Brown came along that fall. Tom Janes, a Romney fund-raiser and Boston private equity guy, joined the advisory board last month.
Brown and Romney are not the closest of political allies, even though you’d think all Massachusetts Republicans would stick together to help stave off extinction. But they have had campaign staffers in common, including ones that helped engineer Brown’s victory over Martha Coakley in 2010.
The more I think about it, the only logical way Brown would have gotten involved with this penny stock is if he had been introduced by a guy who co-founded Bain Capital and went on to make hundreds of millions of dollars making bets on Wall Street. But, I am told, Romney did no such thing.
So let’s assume Brown got into this mess all on his own. I guess this is what happens when he is left to think for himself. You can even make the argument that he’s the political version of a penny stock with his get-elected-quick schemes that come complete with barncoat and truck, or a Hail Mary move to New Hampshire.
It’s one thing for rappers (50 Cent), celebrities (Carmen Electra) and athletes (Shaquille O’Neal) to pump penny stocks; it’s another when we are talking about a once and — perhaps — future senator.
“Any politician that would join the board of a penny stock company is showing signs of great naivete,” said Clem Chambers, whose British company runs InvestorsHub, a giant online forum for penny stocks. “It’s a serious lapse of personal judgment.”
Brown was clearly out to make a fast buck, trading on his credentials and hoping investors would buy low and sell high. Now it’s time for voters to beware.