If anyone ever doubted that Goldman Sachs could get any sleazier than the reputation the institution has garnered over the last few years, recent discoveries regarding the major bank’s ties to underage prostitution have served to aid in sullying the name even further.
Earlier this month, Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times revealed in his article, “Financiers and Sex Trafficking
,” that Goldman Sachs was a 16% stakeholder in one of the biggest public sex trafficking forums in the United States – Backpage.com
I say “public sex trafficking forums” because Backpage is obviously publicly accessible, while more hardcore and illegal activities are clearly hidden from the view of the general citizen. This is because many of the patrons of such operations tend to be the very wealthy in addition to the average run-of-the-mill sexual deviant living in his basement who might be more likely to consult Backpage for its services.
For those unfamiliar with the story, Backpage is a website that provides ads for “escort services” all across the United States and in most metropolitan cities. Of course, many of these ads are placed and answered by consenting adults. However, it is also true that there is a great deal of evidence
to show that Backpage plays a role
in trafficking minors
and women coerced into prostitution.
Interestingly enough, Backpage is owned by Village Voice Media (VVM), which also owns
the Village Voice, SF Weekly, and LA Weekly. VVM is also the company where Goldman Sachs held about 16% of stock. Not only that, but Scott L. Lebovitz, who was a Goldman Sachs managing director who Goldman claims stepped down in 2010, sat on the Village Voice Media board for years.
These reports triggered a cascade of protests from members of the anti-trafficking and religious communities, as well as calls from U.S. Senators for Village Voice Media to shut down the Backpage website.
After the New York Times’ expose, Goldman Sachs sold their holdings in Village Voice Media and, by and large, the bank has once again escaped large-scale criticism. Yet the revelation that the bank would maintain such holdings in VVM with the knowledge that Backpage has been engaging in under-age prostitution and coerced-sex workers does lift the veil slightly to the underworld of sex trafficking.