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.
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.
Of course, it should be noted that the issue at hand is not prostitution. Clearly, an adult should have the right to use their own body as they see fit. The issue is the trafficking of children, minors, or women who are forced or coerced into the industry.
Yet the connection to VVM is not the only connection to sex slavery that Goldman Sachs has kept. In 2010, when DynCorp was being bought out by Cerberus, it was Goldman Sachs that acted as a financial adviser and facilitated the transaction between the two companies.
For those who are unaware, it was revealed in 2003 that DynCorp was involved in the trafficking of young women and children as sex slaves, all while maintaining the U.S. Government contract to administer the smallpox vaccine. Then Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, was actually grilled about this incident by Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney in 2005.