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New Wagner Legislation Empowers Financial Institutions in Fight Against Human Trafficking

Sep 6, 2018
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Today, Congresswoman Ann Wagner (MO-02) and Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (NY-12) introduced the Empowering Financial Institutions to Fight Human Trafficking Act of 2018. The legislation would improve information sharing between non-profit organizations that work closely with trafficking victims and financial institutions, in order to help the financial industry better identify and respond to human trafficking activity. This legislation is part of Congresswoman Wagner’s ongoing fight against human trafficking in the United States and around the globe. Earlier this year, the Congresswoman’s Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) became law and continues to disrupt the domestic online sex trafficking market.

“The Empowering Financial Institutions to Fight Human Trafficking Act establishes a pathway for financial institutions to receive intelligence about human trafficking from non-profit organizations to help in the identification of money laundering and other suspicious activity,” said Congresswoman Wagner. “The processes established in this bill are crucial to providing financial institutions with better access to the information that they already seek and protecting non-profit organizations that otherwise provide it at great risk. Through this legislation, the United States will continue to set the global standards for anti-money laundering and human trafficking prevention.”

“We need to hit traffickers where it hurts—their bank accounts,” said Congresswoman Maloney. “By allowing nonprofits and NGOs to safely and securely share information with the banking industry, we can help put a stop to the money laundering that allows traffickers to keep their disgusting networks and operations going. We need to do everything we can to put a stop to this horrific crime—the information is out there, let’s use it.” 

“Without legislation like the Empowering Financial Institutions to Fight Human Trafficking Act of 2018, non-profit organizations like Liberty Global open ourselves to extreme risk in order to provide the detailed intelligence about human trafficking that the financial industry needs,” said Nathaniel Erb, Liberty Global’s Director of Corporate and Governmental Affairs. “Without this legislation, we are prevented from delivering the most sensitive and useful information to the financial industry and its regulators, leaving those willing to exploit and abuse people across the globe free to do business. We thank Representative Wagner for her leadership on this important issue.”

BILL SUMMARY FOR THE EMPOWERING FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS TO FIGHT HUMAN TRAFFICKING ACT OF 2018

The Empowering Financial Institutions to Fight Human Trafficking Act of 2018 instructs the Secretary of the Treasury to establish a mechanism for non-profit organizations to qualify for safe harbor when sharing specific information with financial institutions that facilitates their duties of customer due diligence and the reporting of suspicious activities relating to human trafficking. In order to protect registered non-profit organizations—which lack the resources for extensive court proceedings—from retaliation, defamation suits, and other actions brought by those who don’t want to see their crimes unveiled, non-profit organizations that share information in compliance with these regulations will receive safe harbor protections. Under this legislation, the Secretary of the Treasury is given the authority to develop regulations to:

  • register non-profit organizations that meet certain qualifications before qualifying to be protected through this mechanism.
  • determine what information may be shared under this protection, which financial institutions may receive information, and how financial institutions may share information received through currently regulated and protected information sharing programs.
  • make the processes outlined in the bill coexistent with current information sharing mechanisms and to utilize existing guidance or regulations for this process as necessary.