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Regulatory: A little-known anti-smuggling provision packs a knock-out anti-trafficking punch

Combining two statutes could give federal prosecutors a powerful weapon against forced labor

Those studying today’s compliance trends and “hot topics” will surely have noticed that 2012’s U.S. efforts to fight human trafficking and other forms of forced labor around the globe have gained an exceptionally powerful new ally, namely, the U.S. business community. Whether this ally voluntarily joined the fight or was conscripted is a debate for another time. What is beyond doubt, however, is that U.S. lawmakers and their enforcers are ramping up their efforts to compel the business community’s compliance with new anti-trafficking laws, including the Sept. 25 Executive Order Against Trafficking in Government Contracting and 2012’s California Transparency in Supply Chains Act (as well as its pending federal analog, H.R. 2759). And other nations are, once again, watching with great interest—for those fond of historical antecedents, the world’s response to ramped up U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement after 2005 comes to mind.

It is against this rapidly-shifting anti-trafficking backdrop that the potential impact of a pair of powerful, little-known (and almost never associated) statutes—18 U.S.C. § 545 (prohibiting certain categories of smuggling) and 19 U.S.C. § 1307 (prohibiting importation of products made by or through forced labor) —lurks quietly.

Section 1307—Proscribing import of products made with forced labor

Despite § 545’s pro-prosecution aspects, it is only through an even less-known statute that the section’s full anti-forced-labor potential is brought into sharp focus. After all, what does “import…contrary to law” have to do with human trafficking and forced labor?

Contributing Author

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T. Markus Funk

T. Markus Funk is a White Collar Defense and Internal Investigations partner at Perkins Coie, where he co-heads the firm’s Corporate Social Responsibility...

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