Hospitality, Entertainment and Big Tech Risk Managers: How Cognizant Are You of Human Trafficking in Your Organizations?

Insurers and risk managers are uniquely positioned to play an important role in fighting the silent risk of human trafficking.
By: | April 28, 2022

In a testament to the power of the topic, the room was filled with engaged attendees in the late afternoon session on the last day of RIMS 2022 at the George R. Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco.

The group of risk management professionals were gathered to listen to Marisa A. Trasatti, partner at Cipriani & Werner, talk about a disturbing, but all too real subject — human trafficking.

With a focus on the shifting landscape of the issue, Trasatti covered evolving case law, red flags of trafficking and the insurance industry’s response to the challenges presented by this foul practice.

Trasatti is a defense lawyer by trade. She serves as general counsel to Sciton, Inc., a medical laser device manufacturer based in California, and works with a civil defense practice concentrated on corporate work, product liability, life sciences and fighting human trafficking.

In her session, Trasatti shared the story of how she became involved in working with trafficking cases. In 2017, she received a call from an insurer asking if she had ever handled a human trafficking claim. She had not, but Trasatti and her client were about to learn together.

That call started her foray into this dark world. Speaking about her experience, Trasatti commented, “We can hardly go a day without hearing about human trafficking, unfortunately, and it’s also getting worse. It’s also the fastest-growing criminal enterprise.”

Human Trafficking Is a Widescale Problem 

Trasatti spoke about the effects of human trafficking on many industries. Labor trafficking is found in agriculture, construction, domestic service, factory work, fisheries, chocolatiers, hospitality, restaurant and food service. Sex trafficking is primarily found in the hospitality, entertainment and big tech industries.

Trasatti spoke about efforts to combat trafficking. She recommended starting at the local level with prevention awareness training and education.

Marissa Trasatti
Partner, Cipriani & Werner

It’s difficult to spot trafficking, and Trasatti acknowledged we won’t always get it right, even with focused educational awareness campaigns targeted at the frontline of defense, like hotel workers and law enforcement agencies.

When it comes to fighting trafficking, a combination approach is best. Combining education and awareness training with mandatory minimum federal sentences for convicted offenders, along with the work being done by NGOs, nonprofits and civil cases, is a strong approach.

Trasatti elaborated, “Human trafficking countermeasures need to take a multidisciplinary approach. Education and training are one cornerstone to combat the scourge. All levels of business management, the judiciary, law enforcement and even the average consumer require sensitization.”

We’re not quite there yet though.

Trasatti explained there is no standard for training, and it gets even more complicated because trafficking is always changing and evolving. There’s no silver bullet method for teaching people to recognize and deter human trafficking, and red flag training doesn’t work, according to Trasatti.

Fact-based training, tabletop exercises and explaining to people what trafficking is not can help — for example, it’s not exclusively prostitution; rather, it’s forced work.

Trasatti spoke about using the totality of circumstances approach when training employees to spot trafficking.

She said: “We also need to invest in social science programs to determine what type of training best identifies the crime and most frequently identifies the crime correctly. Social scientists call this the sensitivity and specificity of the training. There has yet to be developed a training module that has this type of scientific backing.”

While we don’t have the data yet to know what type of training works best, we can work to improve outcomes, so more cases of trafficking are noticed.

Trasatti stressed people won’t notice it every time, but we can improve the percentages, which moves the dial in a positive direction.

The Role of Technology in Trafficking Cases 

In an eye-opening dichotomy, social media is used to both ensnare victims of trafficking and combat the traffickers.

Trasatti spoke more about this juxtaposition. While criminals are using the web to find and groom survivors, law enforcement and other groups are also scouring the internet, posing as potential survivors and trapping the traffickers before they can do more harm.

In a delicate and complex balance, social media provides opportunities for both criminals and heroes in human trafficking cases.

Artificial intelligence is another tool in the fight against human trafficking.

Thorn is a nonprofit organization with a lofty goal — to eliminate child sexual abuse from the internet. The organization was started in 2012 by Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore. Thorn develops technology to help quickly identify survivors and equip platforms and empower the public to help.

With over 2,700 agencies using tools developed by Thorn, the organization has identified close to 25,000 child survivors and helped reduce the investigation time so that once a child is identified, they are helped as soon as possible.

“We need to maximize the use of artificial intelligence and algorithms to detect online transactions involving acts of human trafficking,” said Trasatti.

“In other words, we need more organizations doing what Thorn does. If we need Good Samaritan-type statutes to immunize those who act in good faith to thwart a human trafficking transaction, then maybe Congress can help in that regard.”

The Role of Insurance and Risk Managers in Fighting Human Trafficking 

Risk managers and insurers play an important role in the fight against trafficking. Risk managers can train insureds and provide education and awareness about human trafficking.

Many state laws require businesses like hotels to post signs about trafficking — and insurers can enforce these requirements through policy language and exclusions.

Risk managers can help their clients develop sound policies and procedures about trafficking — how to avoid it, how to recognize it and what to do when red flags are noticed.

Insureds should perform regular training to help employees understand what trafficking is and what they should do if they suspect it.

In industries where there is high turnover, like hospitality and restaurants, training needs to be repeated often. Bringing in a third party to do the training helps spread the liability and is a best practice.

It’s important for businesses to comply with all local laws, not just trafficking laws. And employees should always follow policies and procedures.

Finally, risk managers can help by ensuring businesses have a written plan for avoiding trafficking in their supply chain and labor pool, a critical part of a company’s ESG plan. &

Abi Potter Clough, MBA, CPCU, is a keynote speaker, author and business consultant focused on Insurtech, leadership and strategy. She has over 15 years of experience at a Fortune 500 company with expertise in P&C claims operational leadership, lean management consulting, digital communications and Insurtech. As the past chair of the International Insurance Interest Group of the CPCU Society, Abi remains involved in many international initiatives and projects. She has published two books about change management and relocation. Abi can be reached at [email protected].