50 women say Salesforce helped traffickers exploit them | Fin24
 
  • Trump and Tariffs

    Face-to-face trade meetings with China on the horizon.

  • Peter Moyo

    What is next for Old Mutual and its on-and off-again CEO Peter Moyo as legal manoeuverings continue?

  • Fin24’s newsletter

    Sign up to receive Fin24's top news in your inbox every morning.

Loading...

50 women say Salesforce helped traffickers exploit them

Mar 27 2019 16:07
Kartikay Mehrotra and Nico Grant

Fifty women who describe themselves as survivors of sex trafficking on the now-defunct Backpage.com web portal accuse Salesforce.com of profiting off each ad.

The women sued Salesforce Tuesday in San Francisco state court, claiming billionaire Marc Benioff’s company knowingly supported Backpage by providing customised database tools to market and remarket prostitutes to "pimps, johns and traffickers who had been underusing its trafficking services."

'Vilest of companies'

"Salesforce knew the scourge of sex trafficking because it sought publicity for trying to stop it," according to the complaint. "But at the same time, this publicly traded company was, in actuality, among the vilest of rogue companies, concerned only with their bottom line."

Salesforce said it takes the allegations seriously, but declined to comment on the lawsuit. “We are deeply committed to the ethical and humane use of our products," a Salesforce spokeswoman said in a statement.

This isn’t the first time that Salesforce has sparked controversy because of its decision to do business with a particular customer. In June, more than 650 Salesforce employees signed a letter asking Benioff to reconsider a contract with US Customs and Border Protection because of the Trump administration’s immigration policies at the time, including one that separated families apprehended crossing the border from Mexico. Benioff refused to cancel the deal, arguing that Salesforce’s software wasn’t being used to perpetrate controversial policies.

The 50 women who filed Tuesday’s complaint, each identified only as Jane Doe, were sold for sex across the US, including in the San Francisco Bay Area, Cincinnati and Baltimore, according to the complaint. They allege the services provided by Salesforce to Backpage contributed to their being raped and abused.

Trafficker, pimp database

Starting in 2013, when Backpage’s growth stalled, Salesforce took on the web portal as a client and provided tools to help manage its “trafficker and pimp database,” resulting in Backpage’s resurgence, according to the complaint. The lawsuit includes an order form billed to Backpage that’s dated in December 2016.

Salesforce, led by politically active Benioff, has frequently touted itself as a force for good through its tools and dedication to corporate philanthropy. The company is helping to sponsor an anti-human-trafficking event in April, and its nonprofit arm spotlighted groups that worked on the front lines of the issue in 2017.

The chief executive officer of Backpage pleaded guilty to money laundering and conspiracy charges in three states three days after the site was permanently closed in April 2018. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced that Carl Ferrer had agreed to cooperate with prosecutors against a pair of co-conspirators and controlling shareholders. Ferrer faces a prison sentence of up to five years.

Salesforce has grown rapidly over the past 20 years and generated $13bn in annual revenue in fiscal 2019. The company accomplished that feat through efforts to make its tools appealing to a broad array of organizations, from small startups to the world’s largest corporations.

Shares of San Francisco-based Salesforce slipped 1.2% to $157.47 at 9:55 a.m. in New York on Wednesday.

The case is Jane Does #1 through #50 v. Salesforce Inc., CGC-19-574770, California Superior Court, San Francisco.

sex trade  |  human trafficking
NEXT ON FIN24X

 
 
 
 

Company Snapshot

Money Clinic

Money Clinic
Do you have a question about your finances? We'll get an expert opinion.
Click here...

Voting Booth

What's your view on deep sea mining?

Previous results · Suggest a vote

Loading...