Throughout 2017 awareness of human trafficking as a modern human tragedy — orchestrated by criminal organizations on a global scale — continued to grow.
Equally important, there was an increased recognition of the vital role financial crime investigators at financial institutions (FIs) play in uncovering trafficking activity and, ultimately, protecting those victimized by this terrible crime.
With traffickers continuing to target the US financial system, a strong relationship between law enforcement and banks and credit unions is now recognized as fundamental to the fight to stop modern slavery.
The importance of collaboration between FIs and law enforcement
The importance of FIs in this fight has never been clearer. Last year saw important progress toward strengthening valuable collaboration efforts between FIs and law enforcement.
One example was the bipartisan bill entitled the End Banking for Human Traffickers Act, introduced last year to Congress and designed to “aid financial institutions in identifying and reporting instances of human trafficking so that offenders can be prosecuted and victims can be protected”. It was applauded by human rights organizations including Human Rights First, who expressed that the legislation “would strengthen the role of the Treasury Department and better integrate financial institutions in global efforts to combat slavery.”
“Human traffickers, cartels, and terrorist organizations exploit the U.S. banking system to finance their operations,” Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit Vice Chairman Keith Rothfus (R-PA) said at a joint hearing for the End Banking for Human Traffickers Act and the Counterterrorism and Illicit Finance Act (CTIF) in late-November. “The bills discussed at today’s joint subcommittee hearing are just the beginning of Congress’ work to fix outdated banking laws. Our nation can do a better job fighting back to intercept the money the fuels the spread of terror and crime around the world.”
A passion for evolving the fight
Enthusiasm for FIs’ role in the fight was obvious at industry forums hosted by Verafin in June and November of 2017. The forums brought together a wide group of financial crime investigators from some of the largest institutions in the country to discuss best practices and evaluate existing methodologies for the detection of human trafficking activity.
There was an incredible energy and passion amongst the investigators and presenters at these events — a genuine feeling that everyone’s work and effort is making a difference.
A key takeaway from both days was the need to maintain momentum and the necessity for everyone involved in uncovering and reporting on human trafficking activity to continue to find ways to improve our approach to eradicating this heinous crime.
As we begin the new year and with the month of January designated as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, we want to continue to help grow awareness about this terrible problem and work with financial crime investigators to offer advanced, cutting-edge solutions for uncovering human trafficking activity.
Visit our Resources page for a wealth of educational content about how financial institutions can most efficiently and effectively help end the terrible exploitation of millions of victims around the world.