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JONES DAY TALKS®: Jones Day Partners with Clients to Advance Anti-Human Trafficking

Jones Day’s global anti-human trafficking initiative promotes unprecedented collaboration between our Firm, our clients, law enforcement, governments, and other organizations to detect, uncover, prevent, and prosecute crimes involving the sex trade, forced labor, and similar exploitation.

In observance of National Human Trafficking Awareness Month, partners Laura Ellsworth and Bethany Biesenthal discuss what Jones Day’s anti-trafficking pro bono efforts have accomplished, and talk about the Firm’s objectives moving forward.

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Read the full transcript below:

Dave Dalton:

Human trafficking remains a disturbing shameful global travesty. Millions of victims around the world continue to live in circumstances too horrific for most of us to even imagine. But Jones Day is leading an initiative with the cooperation of partners and clients around the world to detect, prevent, and prosecute human trafficking. And those efforts are already leading to the uncovering of elicit immoral activities and to the liberation of many victims of these crimes.

Dave Dalton:

We're marking national human trafficking awareness month with an overview of what Jones Day pro bono efforts in this area have accomplished and look at the firm's objectives moving forward. Jones Day partners, Laura Ellsworth and Bethany Biesenthal are here for what promises to be a very important conversation. But be advised too, that some of what we're about to discuss, although not overtly graphic, might make you uncomfortable or be difficult to hear. Please use discretion. I'm Dave Dalton, you're listening to JONES DAY TALKS®.

Dave Dalton:

Based in Pittsburgh, Jones Day partner Laura Ellsworth is the firm's partner in charge of global community service initiatives. Spearheading our rule of law and pro bono initiatives around the world. Bethany Biesenthal is a Jones Day partner working primarily out of our Chicago office. She was previously an assistant US attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, where she served as coordinator of the human trafficking section and was a member of a Cook County Task Force Against Human Trafficking. Laura, Bethany, thanks for being here today.

Laura Ellsworth:

Happy to do it.

Bethany Biesenthal:

Thank you, Dave.

Dave Dalton:

Laura, to set up this conversation. I think human trafficking, global concern, huge problem. And that's obviously an understatement. But I'm not sure everybody always understands the extent of what we're talking about. So Laura, can you define for us for the purposes of this discussion and as it relates to Jones Day's efforts towards eradicating this problem, what exactly are we defining as human trafficking?

Laura Ellsworth:

Oh, that's actually a great place to start because many people are under the misimpression that it's prostitution or that it is people smuggling across borders. And it's actually much different than that. It is defined in the US anyway, as the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision or obtaining of a person for labor or services through the use of force, fraud or coercion. And that last part of it is the real key issue. So the work that we do at Jones Day has two large buckets. The first is labor trafficking. Labor trafficking sometimes also called modern day slavery is a situation where somewhere in a very long supply chain, there is one part of that chain that involves forced or coerced labor, modern day slavery.

Laura Ellsworth:

We also deal with sex trafficking, which involves things that can include prostitution, but it can also include online child sexual exploitation, which is a huge and growing field that requires tremendous global resources. And so both on the labor side and on the sex trafficking side Jones Day has developed initiatives that we hope will take on and help to solve both of those huge, huge global problems of human trafficking.

Dave Dalton:

Interesting Laura because people tend to think about the sex trade to be crass when they think of human trafficking, but forced labor is a huge issue also, right?

Laura Ellsworth:

Sure. And I'll give you one example that happened here in the United States following hurricane Harvey down in Texas. There were a number of people from Bangladesh who got picked up in Bangladesh, flown to the United States, kept under lock and key. All of their papers were taken away from them. They didn't speak the language. They worked on construction projects, all their wages were taken by the traffickers. And at the end of those months, they were sent back to Bangladesh and they had been slave laborers for those months working right in the heart of the United States. And that happens in every corner of the United States and in every corner of the world.

Dave Dalton:

Let's go to Bethany for a second. I don't know if it's that people are naive or this is just so uncomfortable to think about and to talk about, but Bethany you've got a good background in terms of this discussion. Former assistant US attorney, Northern District of Illinois, correct?

Bethany Biesenthal:

That's right, Chicago.

Dave Dalton:

That gives you an interesting perspective. Talk about how widespread human trafficking really is.

Bethany Biesenthal:

I wish that I could say that it wasn't, and that it's not an enormous problem, but it just really is. And I think this goes to your point, Dave, that it's something that I don't think people really recognize. Just how widespread the problem is and the scope of it in terms of geography, in terms of the types of people who are affected. In terms of even the different types of trafficking that there are. And this goes to Laura's point that there's not just one type of trafficking, there're all sorts of things going on. So the scope is hard to even get your head around really. It's a global problem. First, the standpoint of geography. There's human trafficking and different types going on in every country in the world.

Bethany Biesenthal:

Specific to the sex trade, there is sex trafficking going on in every jurisdiction within the United States. And that's based on my experience as a prosecutor and what we were seeing, the types of cases that we had coming in. There's also just an extremely high number of victims that are affected by this particular crime. These are even older estimates, so they're probably higher at this point. But the most recent Department of Labor estimates were 24.9 million victims of labor trafficking.

Dave Dalton:

In the United States?

Bethany Biesenthal:

No, worldwide.

Dave Dalton:

Oh, worldwide. Sorry. Okay.

Bethany Biesenthal:

And 4.8 million victims of sex trafficking. Those numbers are just astounding.

Dave Dalton:

Yes. That's a small country, right?

Bethany Biesenthal:

That's right.

Dave Dalton:

25 million people, that's a country.

Bethany Biesenthal:

That's exactly right. And so the problem is huge, which is exactly why I think Jones Day decided to take this on as an initiative, which is that it's a big problem. It needs a big group of people devoting a lot of time, a lot of resources and a lot of energy to figuring out how to combat it.

Laura Ellsworth:

And Dave, one thing that people don't understand is that it's not just in their communities, it may be in their own homes. We all have kids who are online doing all sorts of things. And some of the work that we do involve situations where young people who are online are lured by people online into sharing sexually explicit photographs of themselves or their friends. And then blackmailed into increasingly problematic behaviors that can manifest themselves in the images of your own children being shared through black markets with tens of thousands of child predators overnight. And how to get at those situations, how to do the kind of community awareness and representation of those children when that situation happens. Those are some of the kinds of projects that Bethany and I work on.

Dave Dalton:

When we were doing some preparation for this program Laura, you were telling us about some of the cases and situations you've observed and my stomach started to hurt from some of the things we've talked about already and the observations you've had. But talk about some of the things that you've seen and heard of and maybe some of the cases you've worked on since you've been involved with Jones Day's Project Anti-Human Trafficking.

Laura Ellsworth:

Sure. Well, our team of litigators has worked on a number of different cases. One case is representing women who were victims of what's called domestic servitude, where they worked for diplomats who were posted here to the United States. They were locked in houses. They were treated as slaves in many different respects. And one of our clients was actually found literally crawling on the sidewalk near death, only blocks from the White House. And this was human trafficking that had happened right in our nation's Capitol.

Laura Ellsworth:

Another one of our cases was for a child who was the victim of abuse as a result of what's called sex tourism, where people from the United States go to other countries for purposes of the sexual exploitation of minors. And we represented that child here in the United States in restitution cases and was able to get him established in a school in his home country, free from his trafficking situation. And it was just an extraordinary experience for us to be involved in that kind of case. We're also getting involved in the future in cases involving what's called live streaming. And it's a situation where you have a child typically in say the Philippines with an abuser, typically a family member and people watching online from different places around the world who can order in real time what they want done to the child. And they then pay with cryptocurrencies.

Laura Ellsworth:

And this is a very difficult crime to prosecute because the evidence is ephemeral in nature. It involves a lot of cross border collaboration. It involves relationships with NGOs in countries so that you can get that child to safety. And you can make sure that any restitution payments go to the child, not the abusive family. And so one of the projects that we have undertaken globally is to unite all of the various people who have interest in tackling those cases, whether it be INTERPOL or Europol or the nonprofits or the financial institutions that want to ferret out that behavior and help be part of the solution.

Laura Ellsworth:

And what Jones Day can bring to the table is not only the ability to bring all of those people together under one cohesive project, but to offer pro bono representation for each of those children in each of those countries where the prosecution of the watcher will take place so that their interests can be protected. And they have a chance at getting restitution payments that may help them reestablish their lives in some way. And so that is one of the major projects. And it's a great example of how a global law firm like Jones Day that has these relationships, has relationships with former prosecutors like Bethany, has relationships with the NGOs, is really a necessary centrifugal force. To pull together all of these other entities in a very focused way to say, "Where's the case? Let's bring it and let's bring our resources to the table to make this happen".

Laura Ellsworth:

And one piece of that project is frankly, training judges and investigators in these foreign countries about how to investigate these cases in ways where the evidence is forensically sound in other countries like the United States. And training the judges on how to handle cases with child victims and victims of trauma who testify very differently. And Bethany and some of our other Jones Day lawyers just did some training of judges in Thailand on those issues. And Bethany, you may want to describe that.

Dave Dalton:

Yeah, talk more about that Bethany. I wasn't aware of that, but that sounds like a heavy lift, but a very important one. How did that come together?

Bethany Biesenthal:

We were invited to train judges in Bangkok. So all newly elected judges within Thailand, all came together in Bangkok and an NGO partner of ours was asked to train those judges on hearing human trafficking trials. It was specific to children and child exploitation and child trafficking. And so part of that training involved informing the judges about trauma initiatives and thinking through the way that it is that trauma that suffered by a child affects their ability to recall and testify. So we were incredibly pleased to be asked by our NGO partner to participate.

Bethany Biesenthal:

I went together with a number of other partners from Jones Day. We spent a couple of days there, we put together a comprehensive three day, I think it was, program in which we really had a nice discussion with the judges talking to them about the types of cases that it is that they see specific to Thailand. And then trying to figure out ways and best approaches to talk to the judges about approaching those trials in informed way of understanding that children are a completely different type of witness than one that they may have heard in any case. And that's particularly true when the child has suffered trauma.

Bethany Biesenthal:

The judges were not only incredibly receptive to us being there and us talking to them about our experiences, but what was really interesting was we learned as much as they did. So we were able to come away from that as Jones Day with a better understanding of the types of cases that are happening globally. So my experience for example, is specific to the United States. I was a federal prosecutor. So what I understood was what happened in Chicago. To take us out of that and have the experience of understanding the fact patterns that they're seeing globally was just invaluable to our ability to come back and work in the initiative in a more fulsome and educated way.

Bethany Biesenthal:

Another area that we wanted to focus on, because we think it's really important is the community awareness projects. It's vital that communities understand the problem and understand what's happening so that we can all work together to tackle the problem. So one specific project that we think is particularly exciting that I wanted to highlight. The Jones Day office in Houston had worked very closely with Minal Davis, a local government employee within Houston. Post hurricane, Houston was dealing with trafficking problems within the city. Jones Day together with that local government, worked together to understand and then attempt to solve that problem.

Bethany Biesenthal:

Jones Day Foundation then sponsored Minal Davis moving forward and training other local government employees and other similar cities within the United States to employ a similar role within their cities to help understand the trafficking problem that is specific to those locations. That training program and Jones Day's work with the foundation and in conjunction with Minal Davis spread throughout the United States to the Americas now has gone to Singapore and we expect that it will continue to expand globally over time. So hopefully that's another project that we can highlight in the future, Dave.

Dave Dalton:

Right, great work and what an effort. And I think this is why you become a lawyer in the first place, isn't it? Are there other parts of Jones Day's pro bono work in the anti-human trafficking area you want to bring to light right now? Are there things that might be interesting?

Laura Ellsworth:

Well one is the International Compendium Project, and this is one where we're partnering with clients around the world. And I'll describe it to you very briefly. Because this is a transnational crime, it involves different countries talking to one another about what their respective laws are in the field. And too many times we saw countries come together in various settings and be able to reach agreement on, say for the sake of argument, children under 10 shouldn't be working in the mines. But then as they looked around the table, they didn't know what their own law was on that subject. They didn't know whether the across the table had a law that said, "Parents have complete autonomy over what labor their children do", or if they had a law that said, "15". They didn't know.

Laura Ellsworth:

And so to actually manifest change, people needed to know the baseline. So they needed to know the laws of human trafficking of the world. And we were astonished to find that no such resource existed. And we learned that because it is really big and it is really daunting. And so we thought this is a perfect project for Jones Day. So at the beginning of last year, we launched what we call the Compendium Project. We have now completed exemplar chapters for a number of jurisdictions. And we are meeting with clients across the globe to invite them to take one or more countries following our structure. And this involves largely mostly labor trafficking. It also touches on some of the sex trafficking, but it is primarily focused on labor trafficking and supply chain issues. And we think it's going to be an amazing resource, not just for government policy makers, but also for multinationals who are doing business in these various countries and need and want to know what the laws are in the various jurisdictions.

Laura Ellsworth:

We think it will be a resource for NGOs who are operating in these spheres. And we hope that it will be a way to look across topics, to see where there is a void of law on a particular subject where a country might want to pass laws a new. And if they do, it will immediately give them a smorgasbord if you will, of the different provisions that apply in other countries so that they can pick the one that they think is most advantageous in an efficient and effective way. And again, this is the kind of project that the UN has been trying to do for many years without success. But Jones Day coupled with our partners and our clients around the world, we do believe that we can create that project. And we actually have had meetings with the UN who wants to house it once we're done, but it is we and our clients around the world who will be actually doing the work.

Dave Dalton:

Absolutely. So this is the kind of project or the type of issue that a client would want to partner with Jones Day on, correct?

Laura Ellsworth:

Oh yeah. We have one specialized group of lawyers who work in the financial services sector, who focus on those unique issues in the human trafficking world. And those issues come in, in a couple of ways. Number one, in many places, in many ways, human trafficking is a money laundering offense. And the banks and other financial institutions develop red flags to identify where those cases are happening. And so that is one area where we work is to help them understand how trafficking happens and how they can develop those red flags. Another way is that many financial services institutions get involved in their communities in many different ways and are looking for ways to intersect with good causes. And we do work to help, for example, survivors of human trafficking reintegrate into the community. And whether that is providing employment opportunities or training. Diversionary courts, expungement of criminal records that will allow them to get work in a more effective way.

Laura Ellsworth:

In some cases it is removing tattoos because many victims of human trafficking are tattooed with the address and a name of the person who is trafficking them like a piece of cattle. And so removing those marks is an important step in their passage to recovery. Helping victims of trafficking join advocacy groups where they then go out and help organizations and businesses who want to understand how trafficking actually happens from those who were there and thereby help eradicate the problem globally. All of these efforts are underway in many offices of Jones Day, and we partner with financial services clients and many other clients to help these victims reintegrate in a meaningful way.

Dave Dalton:

Well Jones Day has taken the lead on this and set the template, correct? You're putting the Compendium together with help of other parties, clients and so forth. But it helps someone that someone is laying the path down. Right?

Laura Ellsworth:

Exactly.

Dave Dalton:

Good. Okay. Bethany, let's talk technology for a second. I can't seem to get through a podcast without tech coming up in one way or the other. But it's 2020, happy new year everybody. How can modern technology be more effectively utilized to prevent or detect human trafficking type activities?

Bethany Biesenthal:

So I think this is an exciting time to be part of a movement or part of a group that's trying to eradicate trafficking because of technology. There are so many different options out there, blockchain being one of them that are going to be effective tools to harness all of this data and start making a platform for different folks to be able to work together and share the information that they have. Technology has changed the crime itself in such a significant way, that technology should also change the way that we look to detect and eradicate trafficking. So just using an example of, I started at the US Attorney's Office 12 years ago now, 13 years ago. And my first trafficking cases always involved the same fact pattern, which was a trafficker going to a gas station known as a place where runaways hangout. That's where traffickers went to alert their victims for sex trafficking. This is specific to that type of case.

Bethany Biesenthal:

Now, by the time I left the US Attorney's Office and now based on our experience at Jones Day, that never happens. There's never in-person luring, it's always over the internet. It's so much easier because of technology to victimize. So we need to flip that narrative and use technology to make sure that we're doing a better job on the back end to make sure we catch them, we stop it. We figure out when it's happening. And that's something that Jones Day is working with its clients and NGO partners in making sure that we understand what's the best technology, what's the best platform and what's the best way to make sure that we're sharing? Because working together clearly is going to do a much better job at eradicating this problem than working individually.

Dave Dalton:

Sure. Well, great segue. Laura pick that up. Bethany referred to the IBM project. Talk about that.

Laura Ellsworth:

Yeah. So we call this the Big Data Project. And one of the real challenges in the human trafficking sector is because this is a crime that happens in the shadows, it's very difficult to gather reliable data about what's going on. And as we all know, data drives government action and investment and resources and all of the above. And so IBM has worked with a nonprofit that we work with sometimes as well called Stop the Traffik, based in London. And they have developed a visualization tool which takes the power of Watson, sweeps information from NGOs and others on the ground and creates a visualization of pathways of trafficking, locuses of trafficking. There is bank information in there as well. And so for example, they can get down to street level and we're able to identify things. For example, there were 20 women who were found in trafficking situations throughout the UK, and it turns out when you geo locate that data, you realize they all came from one specific block in Bulgaria.

Laura Ellsworth:

And now you can go to that area and do education and do awareness and do certain things that can help stop it. But without knowing that you wouldn't have known where to go to deploy those resources. So they have developed some amazing tools, and we're now working with them around the world to recruit different organizations who have data to contribute to this visualization tool to get it all in one place and begin to develop actionable usable data. Experian is another Jones Day client that has done amazing work with another nonprofit called Hope for Justice, where they too are taking information that Experian is aware of that are financial indicators for risk of trafficking behaviors, doing visualization of that data. And now what Jones Day is uniquely able to do is to link up the IBM and Experian projects to see where there are ways that they can talk to each other and help each other produce an exponentially more powerful joint tool.

Laura Ellsworth:

So it is our intersection of those various relationships with major clients, with major global NGOs, that enables us to step back and say, "Is there a larger solution here that we can help foster and that we can provide pro bono resources to further?". Part of our approach here is based on our absolute belief in corporate America. We work with a lot of NGOs around the world who are terrific, but they have a suspicion of corporate America. We work with a lot of clients in corporate America who are very suspicious of NGOs, and we feel we are in between those two groups and can really help them come together. And one of the things we've seen is that when companies get focused on these issues, the resources and planning that they can provide to make an absolute difference on the ground and the places they operate, can do more to alleviate actual horrors of human trafficking then all of the policy meetings put together.

Laura Ellsworth:

And so clearly there needs to be policy, there need to be NGOs, and there needs to be action from companies. But we really think that if we can find that perfect intersection where they can work collaboratively together, that is the place where we're going to actually deliver the most results for the victims of human trafficking. And that is who we believe we, and all of the players involved in this actually want to serve.

Dave Dalton:

No other law firm could have done this, hearing you talk... Well, maybe. But honestly, how fortunate are we that people at this firm have taken an interest in this. That we have a global footprint where we can reach out everywhere, where we have clients that will work with us on this. This is unprecedented I would think. Am I right, Laura?

Laura Ellsworth:

There is no other firm that we know that operates on this level. And it's actually the ideal moment in time to be doing it because it is a manifestation of what is now commonly talked about as ESG, CSR, whatever acronym you want to use. But it is companies across the globe, deciding that they are going to undertake certain efforts to be part of the solution. And it's important to them for a business perspective. Not only is it professional responsibility as we know for lawyers, but investors are looking more heavily than ever about how do you operate your business? Can you demonstrate for us that your supply chain is free from slave labor? Employees are asking those questions. Consumers are asking those questions. And so it is becoming a real driver from a business standpoint. And also from this ESG standpoint, that companies are looking for opportunities to be really active in this space. And we've been active there for a long time and have ready-made products of various kinds that they can plug into. So it's a really unique time to be able to do this work.

Dave Dalton:

Absolutely. And I've been accused of cheerleading a little too much around here, but this is just such a sensational effort. What you two are doing and what other firm lawyers are doing and clients in our network is just incredible. So thanks to you both. Let's wrap up with this question to both of you. If anyone hearing this would like to help, contribute, somehow be involved in what we're doing to fight this, what should they do? Who should they contact? What's the call to action?

Laura Ellsworth:

So we would love to have anybody who has heard anything that appeals to them in this to contact us, whether it is to be a part of any of the existing work that we have described or whether it is to bring to us a new idea that we haven't heard before, where the approach that we have described could be useful to the good of the order. They can contact Bethany or me. We also have information on the website about this initiative with the many people who are leading aspects of it from across the world. But we would welcome that communication and we would welcome them to the work that we're doing around the globe.

Dave Dalton:

Laura, Bethany, thank you both. This has been terrific. Let's talk again.

Laura Ellsworth:

Look forward to continuing the conversation. Thanks so much Dave for giving us the opportunity.

Dave Dalton:

Thanks Laura. Thanks Bethany. Okay. This was a tough one, but for more information about Jones Days' anti-human trafficking efforts, to help with the initiative, to get your company involved or to otherwise offer assistance, contact Laura Ellsworth at leellswrth@jonesday.com or 412-394-7929. Or Bethany Biesenthal at bbiesenthal@jonesday.com or 312-269-4303. Or you can call any Jones Day office in the world and be asked to be put in touch with Laura or Bethany. I'm Dave Dalton, this has been JONES DAY TALKS®. We'll talk to you next time.

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