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The Digital Skeptic: Expert Networks Crush Lucrative Banking M&A

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- My buddy C.J. De Santis is an official expert in so-called expert networks.

"I signed up last month," he told me over a plate of ham dinner last month. He was referring to a New York company called the Gerson Lehrman Group, which connects experts with those willing to pay real money for the advice of real experts.

De Santis certainly qualifies. The former managing director at Deutsche Bank Securities now independently advises investors on horribly arcane, but lucrative, areas of fixed-income securities.

A few weeks after signing up, he said, he was connected to a major investor looking to do a billion-dollar acquisition of something called a life-settlements originator, which manages bunches of life insurance policies.

"I got on the phone with them. I told them all I knew," he said. "I made $600 an hour. They were thrilled."

De Santis and I had spoken about the Gerson Lehrman Group before. The company is smack in the middle of a high-profile, $275 million SEC insider trading investigation concerning how trader Mathew Martoma found researcher Dr. Sid Gilman using the Gerson Lehrman network -- and may have traded on material inside information delivered by Gilman.

I half-jokingly asked De Santis if he had divulged any insider information. He smiled. Paused. And then said this:

"I told them nothing that an average investment banker wouldn't know," he said. De Santis then broke out his larger point: Here was a billion-dollar deal that didn't need a traditional, take-a-fat-percentage Wall Street mergers-and-acquisitions bank to get done.

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