filthy lucre

Pornhub Funders Include… Cornell University, Financial Times Report Reveals

Esteemed learning institution and high-interest lender to Pornhub, Cornell University. Photo: John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images

Journalists have been reporting on the unethical behavior of Pornhub for a while now, but is was only after New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof published a (rather flawed) report detailing how Pornhub “monetizes child rape, revenge pornography, [and] spy cam videos of women showering” in early December that things began to change. Since then, Mastercard and Visa banned the use of their cards on the website. The website also instituted stricter rules, like only allowing uploads from verified users, and removed almost 10 million videos from its website.

Pornhub gets more traffic than both Netflix and Amazon, but it has, for the most part, escaped the same government scrutiny as other major websites like YouTube and Facebook. The inner workings of its parent company, MindGeek, have remained largely opaque. A report published Wednesday in the Financial Times revealed that a mysterious businessman named Bernard Bergemar is the largest owner of MindGeek, and that in 2011, the company received a $362 million loan, with a 20.4 percent interest rate, from 125 “secret” investors, which included JPMorgan Chase, private-equity giant Fortress Investment Group, and — naturally — an Ivy League college. Though the details aren’t clear, FT reports Cornell University — a tax-exempt entity, it is worth noting — is among the investors. When asked to comment, Cornell said that its investments are confidential.

The Financial Times also details why Bergemar’s stake in MindGeek has stayed under wraps for so long: His name stays off the company’s corporate filings. Per FT’s Patricia Nilsson, “Several sources confirmed that, through a complex structure involving shares in MindGeek-controlled subsidiaries, Mr. Bergemar is the group’s largest owner and biggest beneficiary.”

Every report on Pornhub makes it increasingly clear that this company is extremely shady, and deserves scrutiny not only from journalists, but from the government. MindGeek also owns YouPorn, RedTube, Brazzers, and many other porn websites, and it basically has a monopoly on the porn industry. Much of what they host is pirated content. None of this seems legal. So why hasn’t the government done anything about this? Kate Isaacs of the nonprofit #NotYourPorn, which fights revenge porn, speculated to the FT, “No politician wants to talk about the porn industry because then they have to acknowledge how it is part of everyday life.”