The luxury hotel was hosting a year-end event for one of the largest financial institutions in the world. 4th quarter dividends and annual bonuses were going to be paid at the party later that night. More importantly, shareholders were set to vote on top leadership positions for the next year.
Claire was losing her bid to become the CEO of the powerful investment bank. She was currently a Board member, which she was also about to lose because of a hostile takeover happening and outside money pouring in.
That’s why she agreed to meet with Mr. Fairbanks privately in her hotel suite that morning. The man was a broker of sorts, in his late 50’s, with slicked back gray hair and dark-framed glasses that matched his suit.
“Here’s the deal,” Mr. Fairbanks said. “We’ve concluded that you’re best for the global markets. We can tip the votes in your favor. We can make you the CEO tonight. But only if you’re interested in working with us.”
Banking. It’s a dirty game. With the amount of experience she had in the financial world, Claire knew what the deal was and how the game was played behind the scenes.
The truth was, although she was a highly-respected and accomplished business woman, Claire’s family had serious money problems. Both of her sisters made risky financial bets and lost. Her husband invested in the wrong stocks. And she was on the verge of losing her seat on the Board to wealthy investors.
Both of her children were attending Ivy League universities and she was paying full tuition for them, along with the education of her nieces and nephews. In addition, she was involved with various international charities that did important work; all of which required a great deal of her own money.
Landing this coveted job would be the answer her family needed. Their luck would turn around overnight. They’d be able to maintain their standard of living while being able to continue their charitable duties.
“I’m interested,” she said.
Mr. Fairbanks nodded, unsurprised. “There’s not much time so we’ll have to work fast to secure the right shareholders.”
“What next?” she asked, preparing herself for anything.
“We’ll need binding agreements and confidentiality from you.”
“Fine, I’ll sign whatever you want.”
Mr. Fairbanks was unmoved. “We both know that written agreements are useless.”
“Alright, what did you have in mind?”
The man was expressionless while he opened his suitcase and Claire knew this was something serious if they’d go through all this trouble. She understood the game. Only now, she was dealing with people in the heart of a clandestine world.
An electronic pad was placed on the desk, and after Mr. Fairbanks entered the password, it was moved in front of her. Claire was allowed to swipe the screen to view each image. What she saw shocked her to the core.
She was looking at pornographic images taken in what appeared to be a fancy hotel. There were separate pictures of women in their 40’s or 50’s having sexual relations with younger men. There were also separate pictures of middle-aged men with college-aged women.
Faces were blurred to conceal identities and none of the participants appeared to be models. The older men and women looked like they haven’t exercised in years, sporting bodies like many office employees at that age.
Different camera angles were used, which suggested that the participants were fully aware of the recording. The obvious question was, why did these people agree to take part in such a thing? And why was this being shown to her?
“What is this?” she asked, almost afraid of the answer.