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Fighting Human Trafficking by Leveraging Global Relationships

Crimes related to human trafficking, including forced labor and sex trafficking, are often detected in activities related to legitimate industries, including manufacturing, healthcare, construction, mining, and banking. Laura Ellsworth, Partner-in-Charge of our Global Community Service Initiative, explains how Jones Day is working with clients across industry sectors and throughout the world, to help identify, prevent, and prosecute human trafficking crimes.

Read the full transcript below:

Laura Ellsworth:

Our approach at Jones Day, we look at human trafficking in two large categories. One is sex trafficking, and primarily the work we do in sex trafficking is children, the online trading of images of children and the sexual exploitation of children here and around the world. That is an issue that many people think of as somebody else's issue, but increasingly it is an issue that is in all of our communities because of the power of the internet.

Laura Ellsworth:

Another form of human trafficking is labor trafficking, sometimes called modern day slavery. What that is where sometimes way down in the supply chain, a company will experience an incidence of slave labor. So for example, one of the early cases was in the fishing industry where these boats in Asia would go pick up someone off the shore, take them to sea, not land them for a year, essentially keep them prisoner. They would fish and a year later they'd be gone and set on the coast, and that's modern day slavery. That product reached consumers in the United States and that results in sometimes liability. Sometimes it results in reputational harm that is as damaging or more damaging in some cases, and so what we have seen is that all of these clients that are involved in multinational supply chains are aware of these issues.

Laura Ellsworth:

So basically every industry is touched in one way or another by these human trafficking considerations. So for example, the manufacturing industry, as I just described may have modern day slavery somewhere in their supply chain, which is very hard for them to identify because it's thousands of miles away. It's despite their best efforts to prevent it, and yet it might be there. In the banking industry, because this is fundamentally a multinational crime, a money-laundering crime, the banking industry has certain responsibilities and certain ways in which they want to be part of the solution for this problem. The construction industry has situations where people are picked up from very desperate places and transported to construction sites, forced to work and sometimes told that their wages are being taken to pay back the trafficker for the cost of transporting them to the construction site. They then work for nothing for years and are taken home.

Laura Ellsworth:

There was recently a case that was filed in the United States against people who are in the electronics business because cobalt, which is a product that is found in electronics, is mined in Congo. Some of the cobalt mined in Congo is mined with child labor, and so with multinational companies with supply chains that stretch against the world, this is an issue that every single industry faces. We see clients in virtually every sector actively engaged in finding important solutions to this.

Laura Ellsworth:

I'll give you healthcare sector, as an example. Around 70% to 90% of victims of trafficking will encounter the healthcare system at some time during their trafficking, and so the healthcare system is doing amazing work, working with hospital systems to be able to identify the indicia of trafficking when they see it in the healthcare system, learning ways to train their people to intervene and to get those victims to safety, and to use the healthcare system, not only to help individual people, but also to help on the data issues, to be able to identify when and where trafficking is actually happening in real time in our communities while being thoughtful about HIPAA and privacy, and all of those things that healthcare systems already are good at thinking about. We've been working with the American Hospital Association and healthcare systems throughout the United States to be a leader in the education of healthcare systems.

Laura Ellsworth:

We have seen it with our client IBM. Data and the importance of data in the human trafficking field cannot be overstated and IBM has created just an unprecedented tool that uses the power of AI to sweep the world for information about trafficking. They have partnered with financial services, organizations who do SARs reports, suspicious activity reports, and also partnering with the NGOs who see this work in real time. They're taking all of that information and putting it together on one platform, which can then do visualization. Why does that matter? For example, we all read about the 39 people who died in the trailer in the United Kingdom and what this IBM tool was able to do was to show that the individuals in that trailer, though they came through very different pathways, came from essentially the same town in Vietnam. Now you have a case that you can investigate. Now you have a location where you can focus your prevention resources.

Laura Ellsworth:

So it's not data for data's sake. It is data to allow people to help victims and the issues associated with building that tool and deploying it across the world, you can only imagine. The complexities of IP, and data contribution agreements, and MOUs, and privacy, all of those hard issues are what Jones Day does, and our ability to deploy those in a pro bono way to help clients like IBM that are trying to do truly global things. Not only can we bring our legal acumen, but we can bring the relationships that we have with all these NGOs around the world, with law enforcement organizations with whom we work around the world, with the judges who we work with around the world. All of those people are people who we can bring around the table because of their respect for Jones Day and it enables us to really exponentially increase the impact, not only of what we do, but what our clients in many cases are doing and want to do.

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