Rep. George Santos has boasted of his time at LinkBridge Investors, where, he said, he served as vice president, worked with high-level partners at prestigious global investment banks and brought in a million dollars in revenue during his first six months on the job.
But newly discovered federal court records show Santos may have significantly overstated his role.
The company's founder and chief executive, testifying under oath in a deposition in a lawsuit in 2019, described Santos as a “freelancer” who sold sponsorships for conferences and events.
Pablo Patrick Oliveira testified that Santos (R-Nassau/Queens) helped him build Excel lists of potential sponsors and was paid only on commission.
WHAT TO KNOW
Rep. George Santos boasted of his position at a financial company, where he said he brought in millions of dollars in revenue.
But federal court records discovered by Newsday show Santos may have significantly overstated his role at the company.
The company's founder, testifying under oath in a deposition in a federal lawsuit, described Santos as a “freelancer” who worked only on commission.
LinkBridge listed a Manhattan address, but after its first few months, was headquartered out of Oliveira’s apartment in Florida and used only “virtual” office space in New York City, according to the testimony.
“He's an independent contractor, freelancer, sells sponsorships whenever he wishes to,” Oliveira said of Santos, according to a transcript of Oliveira's March 14, 2019, deposition, part of a docket filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan.
New details about Santos' work for LinkBridge, which have not previously been reported, are contained in court documents associated with a 2018 lawsuit alleging that Oliveira stole client lists from his prior employer.
The lawsuit, brought by Markets Group Inc., did not involve Santos.
Oliveira denied the allegations, and the case ultimately was dismissed.
Newsday reviewed the federal court filings, publicly available business incorporation records, social media posts and LinkBridge brochures and compared them with statements Santos has made about his work for the company.
The court documents provide insight into a largely unexamined period of Santos’ career.
Oliveira's description of Santos' modest role at the company, coming more than halfway through his nearly three-year-tenure there, would appear to contradict Santos' description of himself as an experienced Wall Street financier who worked directly with major companies in the financial industry.
After admitting to lying about having worked for Citigroup and Goldman Sachs, neither of which could produce records of his employment, Santos began to highlight his time at LinkBridge, where he said he got his most significant experience in the financial sector.
In an interview on Dec. 26 on John Catsimatidis' program on WABC Radio, Santos did not repeat past statements about having been employed by Goldman Sachs and Citigroup, but said:
“I did extensive work on the [limited partnership] side with Goldman Sachs in my time at LinkBridge. I did extensive work with Citigroup in my time in the [limited partnership] position in LinkBridge Investors, just like I did work with firms on the [general partner] side of things like Blackstone and Deloitte and Robbins Geller [Rudman] Dowd and so many other big firms in the industry of private equity.”
A Blackstone spokesperson told Newsday in an email this week: "We have found no record of Mr. Santos or LinkBridge having a business relationship with Blackstone."
A Citigroup spokeswoman declined to comment, and representatives of the other firms Santos mentioned to Catsimatidis did not respond to requests for comment.
Oliveira said in his court deposition that LinkBridge primarily solicited sponsors for conferences designed to connect potential investors with each other.
It developed leads from Google and LinkedIn searches, made lists of the prospects in Excel, sent email pitches to thousands of people at a time and then tried to get on the phone with anyone who replied, Oliveira testified.
“Selling the conference, just like selling a car, selling insurance,” Oliveira said about the kind of work he did, first with Markets Group.
Santos, 34, was elected in November to represent the 3rd Congressional District, which covers parts of Nassau County and eastern Queens.
He is facing local, state and federal investigations into his background and personal and campaign finances after revelations, first reported by the Times, that he fabricated much of his work and education history.
Newsday has reported that political committees associated with Santos gave a total of $185,000 to Nassau County and Hempstead Town Republican committees after they had supported his candidacy. The party has disavowed Santos and returned some of the money.
Newsday also reported that Santos-tied committees paid tens of thousands of dollars to newly formed companies with opaque histories and scant record of working for other political candidates.
Campaign finance experts said the lack of public information about such vendors could raise questions about whether Santos paid inflated rates for unnecessary services performed by friends and allies, or possibly diverted campaign donations for his own use.
Several House Republicans have requested Santos’ resignation from Congress.
One of them, fellow freshman Rep. Nick LaLota (R-Amityville), called on federal prosecutors or the Federal Election Commission to freeze funds remaining in Santos’ campaign accounts, saying the Newsday report on questionable spending “highlights the need to act quickly.”
Santos’ congressional office did not respond to a request for comment for this story.
'Hustling for business'
Santos has described his work in finance as complicated — even of a level the American people might not understand.
Asked on Fox News to describe his resume, Santos said on Dec. 27: “I can sit down and explain to you what you can do in private equity … via servicing limited partners and general partners, and we can have this discussion that’s going to go way above the American people’s head … ”
On a resume Santos submitted to the Nassau County Republican Committee when he sought support for his first run for Congress in 2020, he said he was LinkBridge’s vice president, and that he started with the company in August 2017.
Santos wrote that within six months of joining LinkBridge he had tripled company sales from $450,000 to $1.4 million and ultimately oversaw growth in revenues from “revolving sales” to $11 million.
But in his March 2019 deposition — a year-and-a-half after Santos said he had started at LinkBridge — Oliveira described Santos as only a freelancer who was paid by commission.
Santos reported only $55,000 in income from LinkBridge in 2019 when he disclosed his assets in a May 2020 financial disclosure form for candidates for the House of Representatives.
He went on to form his own Devolder Organization. He reported assets totaling between $2.6 million and $11.3 million in 2021 and 2022, according to the House financial disclosure form he filled out last year.
At the time of Oliveira's testimony, LinkBridge was promoting its 2019 “Global Investors Annual Meeting.”
Its brochure for the conference listed Santos, using the name George Devolder, as “vice president."
Newsday discovered the brochure attached to the agenda of a March 13, 2019, meeting of the Los Angeles County Employee Retirement Association’s investors board.
Santos’ name is not listed on any annual LinkBridge reports filed during the period of his employment with the Secretary of State of Florida, where LinkBridge is incorporated.
The state agency maintains corporate business records and requires disclosure of registered agents and “authorized persons,” typically top executives.
Newsday also interviewed several people who said they attended LinkBridge conferences during Santos’ tenure.
None of them could remember dealing with him in any way.
“He probably would have been at the meeting, at that level,” said Eric Newman, treasury manager for the City of Stamford, Connecticut, who manages the city’s public pension plans and spoke at numerous LinkBridge conferences.
“I never came into contact with him, that I’m aware of,” Newman told Newsday.
Of Oliveira, Newman said: “That’s who I dealt with and continue to deal with.”
Portions of Oliveira’s back story bear close resemblance to biographical details shared by Santos during his House campaign.
Last week, Nassau GOP chairman Joseph Cairo said Santos had boasted having been a star volleyball player for CUNY Baruch College.
That wasn’t true. Baruch officials told Newsday they had no record of Santos having attended or been enrolled at the college.
The college's website describes Oliveira as an “outside hitter” for the Division III team, at 6 feet 4 inches. His hometown is listed as Uberlandia, Brazil, in the country's southeastern region.
Oliveira, 33, did not respond to calls or emails seeking comment. His attorney in the federal lawsuit also did not respond to a request for comment.
Anoop Rai, a professor of finance at Hofstra University’s Zarb School of Business, said Santos’ role at LinkBridge, as described in Oliveira’s sworn deposition, appeared to be “marketing.”
Oliveira's deposition suggests “it is high finance in terms of what happens at the events," Rai told Newsday.
But it appeared, "as far as George’s role here, he was just hustling for business,” Rai said.
Events management “takes an effort to get all these firms to come, you have to have a lot of credibility," Rai said. "You have to have the right speakers so people pay to come to these conferences.”
Oliveira founded LinkBridge in 2016 after having worked at Markets Group, a New York City-based “executive forum provider,” for about three years, he testified.
He rose from a $10-an-hour employee to a manager with a salary of between $80,000 and $90,000 annually, he said.
At Market Groups, Oliveira would sometimes send out upward of 20,000 emails at once, he testified.
The goal, he said, was to get someone to agree to pay to attend or sponsor a conference.
Market Groups hosted events focused on Latin American real estate. Company officials did not respond to requests for comment.
People who replied received more personalized emails or calls. Successful sponsorships brought him commissions that could be 6.5% of the sponsorship fees, Oliveira testified.
“It was a mass email, talk to a lot of people, move on,” he said.
Oliveria first envisioned LinkBridge as servicing “investor relations,” he testified. That amounted to reaching “out to investors so they could be introduced [in] a specific amount of meetings to some managers,” he testified.
Within six months, LinkBridge moved into running conferences, because “there wasn’t enough revenue coming in through investor relations” alone, according to Oliveira's deposition transcript. According to company social media posts, LinkBridge has held and continues to hold events in New York, Dallas and Miami.
Oliveira testified in March 2019, a time when Santos said he was vice president, that the company then employed only just himself and his wife, Naira Oliveira.
LinkBridge's website lists its address as on the 8th floor of an office building on Avenue of the Americas in Manhattan. Oliveira testified that the space was "virtual."
Newsday visited the address on Wednesday, but a LinkBridge office could not be found.
According to LinkBridge’s LinkedIn page, the company has four employees, including Oliveira and his wife.