Frequently Asked Questions

What do you want pension and endowment to do?

Demand that private equity firms create a program that ensures illegal fees are reimbursed, discourages domestic worker abuse and provides a recognized “seal of approval” demonstrating that private equity executives are not linked to trafficking activity.

Isn’t this the government’s responsibility?

We believe “employer pays” laws should be better enforced but that international firms should not use government failure as an excuse for inaction on their own “trafficking footprint.” By failing to take action, these firms put their clients at risk of violating their own high-profile commitments to a trafficking-free supply chain.

Isn’t this abuse mainly “on the bad side of town”?

No. On the contrary, the abuse happens almost exclusively in upper-income households simply because the labor department does not allow lower-income households to hire foreign domestic workers. Abusers are much more likely to be lawyers from white-shoe law firms than truck drivers. Debt from illegal fees and many other factors give expatriate employers an extraordinary level of power over these workers which they are not accustomed to and which is frequently abused.

How have investment firms reacted to demands for reform?

Activists have been encouraging the finance industry to take action on this issue for many years. Most firms have been indifferent or even hostile to suggestions for improvement. Others have been supportive and helpful including Macquarie, Goldman and above all KKR. Our view, based on years of experience, is that private equity firms will only take action if their institutional clients demand it.

Why must the program be mandatory for all executives at participating firms?

The problem is adverse selection. The executives who voluntarily attend awareness and education programs and the like were never the problem in the first place. There is a significant number of extreme abusers in the private equity ecosystem and these are the people the C.A.R.E. program is designed for. Firms that opt into the program must require their executives participate, and each worker must have a contact as a resource to pursue justice if abused. Refusal to participate in this program would speak volumes to shareholders and the public alike.

Why not accredit certain ethical agencies?

Agencies readily concede there is a fundamental conflict between seeing employers as customers and defending maids from abuse by these same customers. For this reason, the program must be independent of existing agencies and must cover even workers hired without agencies. The worst employers don’t use agencies at all specifically in order to isolate the worker and to limit her recourse in the case of abuse. The C.A.R.E. program operates independently of all other recruitment channels and can cover any recruitment method while at the same time being non-intrusive.

Do these illegal fees constitute human trafficking or modern slavery?

The fees alone do not constitute trafficking, but the resulting debt makes the worker vulnerable to coercion and abuse from the employer. Being forced to submissively accept abuse due to feeling trapped fits the U.S. Department. of State’s definition of modern slavery and human trafficking. These debts can also become a contributing factor in pressuring these women into dangerous sex work and situations of criminal sex trafficking. U.S. government procurement policies prohibit all forms of recruitment fees specifically because they create the vulnerabilities that lead to trafficking.

How do you expect private equity firms will react to this campaign?

We think they are likely to ask the government to take action and to offer voluntary education programs. The demand for government action will signal virtue, but it’s not the role of a U.S. investment firm to pressure a foreign government on an issue like this and it would likely have very little long-term impact.  These firms will also likely make donations to local NGOs and offer education programs to their executives. This also will have little impact. The appropriate response is a program covering all executives that reimburses illegal fees and discourages abuse and that covers ALL executives.

Domestic Workers Justice Initiative: Working with institutional investors to keep their supply chains trafficking free.

© Domestic Workers Justice Initiative

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