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Trump’s Commitment Against Human Trafficking Brings Greater Uncertainty for Contractors

Last Thursday, President Trump and his senior advisors met with representatives of organizations committed to fighting human trafficking. As reported by several news outlets (e.g., AP, NYT, and Reuters), the President stated during the meeting that he would commit the “full force and weight” of the U.S. government against what he views as an “epidemic” of human trafficking around the world.  He explained that he would “direct the Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security, and other federal agencies that have a role in preventing human trafficking to take a hard look at the resources and personnel that they are currently devoting to this fight.”  He noted that these agencies “are devoting a lot, but we are going to be devoting more.”  The next day, President Trump appeared to reiterate his commitment on Twitter.

The Obama Administration expressed a similar commitment to ending human trafficking.  As we have previously discussed, under President Obama, the anti-human trafficking clause at FAR 52.222-50 was amended to significantly increase the requirements on contractors to ensure human trafficking does not occur within their organizations or supply chains.

Given the Trump Administration’s commitment to “devoting more” resources to fight human trafficking, it seems FAR 52.222-50 is a regulation that is here to stay and could serve as an already existing vehicle for the Department of Justice and other federal agencies to increase their monitoring and enforcement of anti-trafficking requirements.  To date, the government has appeared to recognize that contractors required time to come into compliance with FAR 52.222-50’s requirements.  That said, it is unclear how and when the government may take a more active interest in compliance with this clause.

As a result, in the short term, contractors would be well advised to confirm their compliance with FAR 52.222-50 by ensuring that their employee policies prohibit the conduct covered by the clause and that appropriate internal reporting mechanisms have been implemented. Contractors performing work outside the United States should also confirm whether they have implemented the necessary compliance plans and performed adequate due diligence of their supply chains before certifying compliance with the human trafficking rule.

© 2020 Covington & Burling LLP


About this Author

Jennifer Plitsch, Litigation attorney, Covington

Jennifer Plitsch is co-chair of the firm’s Government Contracts practice group where her practice includes a wide range of contracting issues for large and small businesses in both defense and civilian contracting. Her practice involves advising clients on contract proposal, performance, and compliance questions as well as litigation, transactional and legislative issues. She has particular expertise in advising clients on intellectual property and data rights issues under the Federal Acquisition Regulations and Bayh-Dole Act, and has significant experience in...

Alexander Hastings, Litigation and e-discovery lawyer, Covington

Alex Hastings advises clients across a broad range of government contracting issues, including advising clients in transactional matters involving government contractors and assisting defense contractors and pharmaceutical companies in securing and performing government contracts.

Mr. Hastings also advises clients concerning best practices in e-discovery. He assists in investigations and litigations that involve complex e-discovery issues and has represented clients in matters involving the U.S. Department of Justice, Securities and Exchange Commission and the United States International Trade Commission.