Fusion GPS is an opposition research firm created by former Wall Street Journal reporters in 2011. The firm gained public notoriety after the 2016 election cycle. During the election, Fusion GPS controversially worked for persons associated with the Democratic National Committee and Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton to compile an opposition research file against Republican candidate Donald Trump. The file alleged that Trump engaged in nefarious activities in Russia, reportedly being paid $1 million for the work. Trump has denied the allegations in the file.
Fusion GPS has also worked for clients believed to be operating on behalf of Russian government interests. Through a proxy U.S. law firm, Fusion was commissioned to dig up dirt in defense of Prevezon, a Russian company accused by the U.S. Justice Department of benefiting from a $230 million tax fraud scheme perpetrated by Russian officials. Fusion’s efforts were intended to discredit William Browder, the CEO of the firm allegedly defrauded by Russian government officials. Browder also alleged that Fusion GPS was representing the interests of the Russian government in an effort to obfuscate the details surrounding the suspicious death of his lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, who had originally alleged the fraud and who died whilst in Russian prison. 
Fusion GPS has a long history of controversial research operations. The firm worked on behalf of Planned Parenthood to discredit videos showing the organization trafficking fetal tissue and organs. In 2012 the firm attacked a Republican donor and businessman Frank VanderSloot after President Barack Obama’s campaign listed the donor as one of eight targets.  The firm “worked to blunt aggressive reporting” which exposed alleged fraud by the medical-device company Theranos, and was retained by Herbalife to attack investor William Ackerman, who had taken a “short” position in Herbalife stock, expecting the value of the company to fall because of federal investigations. The company later settled with the Federal Trade Commission for $200 million. 
Fusion GPS is an opposition research founded in 2011 by former Wall Street Journal reporters Glenn Simpson and Peter Fritsch. A third former Journal reporter, Thomas Catan, has been identified as a “partner” in the firm. The firm has worked extensively for clients with ties to the Democratic Party.
In October 2016 Simpson, during a Washington D.C. panel entitled, “Investigations With an Agenda,” described Fusion GPS as “journalism for rent.” In 2016, the firm had 10 employees and provided background information on political candidates, public figures, policy issues, and business interests.
Christopher Steele Dossier
In April 2016 Marc Elias, a partner at the law firm Perkins Coie who represented the Democratic Party during the 2016 election, retained Fusion GPS on behalf of the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee to provide a “no-stones-unturned” evaluation of then-Presidential candidate Donald Trump.
Fusion was originally hired to investigate Trump by the conservative news website Washington Free Beacon, which was financially supported by Republican donor Paul Singer. After Trump won the Republican nomination, Fusion found Democratic donors to fund and expand the effort. 
Perkins Coie paid Fusion GPS $1.02 million for its research against then candidate-Trump in 2016. Fusion GPS hired former British spy Christopher Steele to research any connections between then-candidate Trump and the Russian government. Steele was based in Russia in the 1990s and now runs an intelligence firm in London.
Steele produced a 35-page largely unverified dossier based on memos he compiled from June through December 2016. The Steele dossier was passed around D.C. for months before BuzzFeed made the controversial decision to publish it in its entirety shortly before President-elect Trump’s inauguration.
Steele has acknowledged that information in his dossier was “merely a compilation of bits of ‘raw intelligence’ that were ‘unverified’ and that he passed along because they ‘warranted further investigation.’” For at least one of the memos he indicated that the info “needed to be analyzed and further investigated/verified.” President Trump has denied the allegations.
The Steele dossier has grown in importance in the wake of subsequent allegations that “the Justice Department relied on parts of it to obtain a FISA warrant ‘to conduct surveillance on Trump associate Carter Page’”  and that former President Barack Obama was briefed on the dossier by then-CIA Director John Brennan.
Prevezon Holdings Limited is a Russian holding company based in Cyprus. In a civil lawsuit, the U.S. Justice Department alleged that Prevezon was the beneficiary of money stolen from Hermitage Capital Management in a $230 million tax fraud scheme that was “perpetrated by a Russian state-backed transnational criminal organization known as the Klyuev Group.” In 2017, Prevezon settled the Justice Department’s lawsuit for $5.9 million without admitting guilt.
Natalia Veselnitskaya, a Russian attorney, was Prevezon’s lawyer for more than two years and was a leader in a campaign to repeal the Magnitsky Act sanctions law passed by the U.S. against Russian officials in the wake of the suspicious death of Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian attorney who helped identify the alleged scheme.
Veselnitskaya worked with the U.S. law firm Baker Hostetler on these efforts, which in turn hired Fusion GPS to help defend Prevezon by discrediting Hermitage CEO Browder. From 2013 through May 2017 Fusion GPS worked for the law firm Baker Hostetler, assisting its defense of Prevezon. According to CNN, “as part of her legal counsel for Prevezon, Veselnitskaya helped retain the services of Fusion GPS […] to conduct research aimed at strengthening Prevezon’s defense.”
Fusion GPS cofounder Glenn Simpson told the U.S. Senate Judiciary committee that Veselnitskaya arranged for Fusion GPS’ payments through the law firm Baker Hostetler:
“[A]s the lawyer for Prevezon, Veselnitskaya would have arranged for Prevezon to pay Baker Hostetler which paid us […] But, I mean, I don’t think the money came from her. It came from Prevezon.”
Subsequently, Hermitage’s CEO Browder claimed that Veselnitskaya was “acting as an agent of the Russian government” and “filed a formal complaint with the Justice Department, asking it to investigate the firm [Fusion GPS] for violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act by working with Baker Hostetler on behalf of Prevezon.” Browder claimed that Fusion GPS was hired to promote an “anti-Magnitsky narrative, that he died of natural causes, that he wasn’t a whistle-blower.” Fusion GPS denies that they violated U.S. law. 
In 2015, Planned Parenthood commissioned Fusion GPS to generate a report that would undermine a series of undercover videotapes created by the pro-life organization Center for Medical Progress that purported to show officials working for Planned Parenthood selling fetal tissue and organs to researchers. (Such sales would be illegal if made for profit.)
In turn, according to Politico, Fusion GPS’ report argued that the videotapes contained deceptive edits, were inaccurately transcribed, and were missing footage.Fusion GPS’ report also concluded that there was no “widespread evidence of substantive video manipulation” and that it was “impossible to characterize the extent to which the edits and cuts distort the meaning of the conversations depicted.” 
The report argued that the videos lacked journalistic credibility, had no legal “evidentiary value,” and could not be used in “official inquiries.” 
A Weekly Standard commentator criticized Politico’s assessment of the Fusion GPS report for failing to call attention to the fact that Fusion GPS is “an opposition research firm with ties to the Democratic Party and has a history of harassing socially conservative Republican donors.”
Romney Donor Research
In 2012, Fusion GPS researched Idaho businessman Frank VanderSloot who was “the target of a smear campaign” after it was disclosed that he had donated $1 million to a super PAC supporting Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
The Wall Street Journal reported that “President Obama’s campaign website teed [VanderSloot] up in April as one of eight ‘less than reputable’ Romney donors and a ‘bitter foe of the gay rights movement.’” A little more than a week later a former Democratic Senate staffer sought to obtain Vandersloot’s divorce records on behalf of Fusion GPS.
The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board condemned Fusion GPS for refusing to disclose how it was funded and for demonstrating an increasing intolerance toward free speech in order to intimidate conservatives from participating in political discourse.
Controversial Opposition Research
An extensive Washington Post report found that Fusion GPS used investigative reporting techniques and media connections to advance the controversial interests of its clients of on Wall Street, in Silicon Valley and in the nation’s capital.
According to the Post, “Fusion worked to blunt aggressive reporting on the medical-device company Theranos, which was later found to have problems with its novel blood-testing technology.”
Fusion GPS was also “hired to ward off scrutiny of the nutritional supplement company Herbalife, which ultimately paid $200 million to distributors to settle claims by regulators.” In this instance, Fusion GPS was hired to find information that would spark government investigations into one of Herbalife’s major financial detractors.
In 2016, Fusion GPS, through a local subcontractor, used “hardball tactics” to attack the interests behind a $1.2 billion Beverly Hills condo project. Fusion GPS’s contractor sought through a public records lawsuit to obtain domestic dispute records relating to then-Beverly Hills mayor John Mirisch and his wife. Fusion GPS’s executive provided the contractor with a statement he could give reporters inquiring about the lawsuit, which suggested the mayor’s support for the project was due to an unsubstantiated quid pro quo arrangement with a retired police chief turned development lobbyist. 
Glenn Simpson is chief executive of Fusion GPS. He is also a partner in SNS Global and is a fellow at the International Assessment & Strategy Center. Previously, Simpson was a journalist for the Wall Street Journal.
A third former Journal reporter, Thomas Catan, has been identified as a “partner” in the firm. Catan “covered international economics and money in politics for the Wall Street Journal” and “was also Spain correspondent for the newspaper and the Times of London; an energy, investigative, and Argentina correspondent for The Financial Times; and a reporter for Dow Jones.”