Sex Trafficking Is Bad For Businesses

The recent scandal involving former Subway spokesperson, Jared Fogle, highlights the harm that sex trafficking poses not
September 10, 2015

By Mar Brettmann, ED of BEST, and Sandip Soli, Attorney at Cairncross & Hempelmann
Originally published on September 4, 2015, by the Puget Sound Business Journal.

The recent scandal involving former Subway spokesperson, Jared Fogle, highlights the harm that sex trafficking poses not only to the victims of the crime but also to the businesses involved.

Beyond the human rights violations that cannot be ignored, the business community has a vested interest in curbing sex trafficking.  When news broke that Fogle sought child prostitutes as young as 14 and 15 years old and pled guilty to paying for sex with two 16 year old girls, Subway tried to distance itself. In addition, the names of the hotels where the children visited Jared, among the most prominent hotels in NYC, were broadcast across news channels. These trusted brands are now at risk because of the predatory behavior of a major spokesperson.

Fogle’s behavior is not unique. A study by Arizona State University found that 8,806 people in Seattle solicited sex from one website in a 24-hour period. Businesses Ending Slavery and Trafficking (BEST) completed a study of the people who were caught buying sex from children in King County over a two-year period, ending January 2015. Eighty percent of these men were from the private sector, most employed by reputable companies including large, trusted brands. While no industry was immune from this crime, 70 percent of the buyers of child prostitutes came from six industries: information technology, retail, professional services (attorneys, accountants, consultants), manufacturing, construction, and transportation/warehousing. None of these companies want their reputations tied to customers or employees who choose to fuel sex trafficking.

Just as predatory behavior like Fogle’s poses a serious risk to businesses, businesses can play a key role in prevention. For this reason, the Washington Lodging Association and Asian American Hotel Owners Association NW have been working in partnership with BEST to educate their members about the harms and risks of sex trafficking as well as the steps to identification and prevention. The compassion for victims and the bold leadership demonstrated throughout the Washington tourism industry has been unparalleled in the country and needs to be celebrated. Our hoteliers are working together to create an environment in which sex trafficking will not go unnoticed and it will be harder for predators like Fogle to exploit young children.

The next step that needs to happen is for businesses beyond the tourism industry to join forces to say, “No more.” For businesses, the reputational, legal, and financial risks associated with sex buying are real. In initial interviews for an ongoing study, a majority of prostituted women reported visiting clients on company property. A second ongoing study indicated that a peak time for soliciting sex is 2pm—during the workday.

Engaging in any type of illegal activity on company time, company property, or company travel poses risks. When employees are caught buying sex during business hours or on company property or travel it isn’t just an individual’s name on the line. With the current media attention on child sex trafficking and the incomprehensibly high prevalence of solicitation, sex buying is an issue that companies can no longer ignore. It reduces work productivity, creates an uncomfortable or hostile work environment, and can devastate brands and employers that are tied to it

Employers are starting to adopt new policies, educate their employees, align their suppliers, and demonstrate increasing corporate responsibility on the issue of sex trafficking. Cairncross & Hempelmann is seeking to lead the way by joining the BEST Employers Alliance and working to incorporate BEST Practices for Employers into our own operations. We invite employers throughout the region to participate and to send a clear message to employees and customers like Fogle, “No more.”

Mar Brettmann, PhD, is ED of Businesses Ending Slavery and Trafficking (, a non-profit aimed at human trafficking prevention. Her PhD is from the University of St. Andrews, Scotland.

Sandip Soli, JD, is an attorney at the law firm Cairncross & Hempelmann and leads its real estate and hospitality practices.  He provides training to prevent liability relating to sex trafficking.


[1] 8,806 people soliciting:

Follow up study to Dominique Roe-Sepowitz, et al, “Invisible Offenders: A Study Estimating Online Sex Customers,” Arizona State University. August 2013. Study of Seattle market completed September 2014. Also cited here:

[2] Industries of Buyers (80% from private sector; 70% from six industries)

According to unpublished study by BEST based on a public information request from the KC Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, which provided the occupations of 68 men arrested for CSAM or attempted CSAM from Jan 2013-Jan 2015.

[3] Majority of prostituted women reported visiting clients on company property

Ongoing interview study data by the Organization for Prostitution Survivors.

[4] A peak time for soliciting is 2pm

According to preliminary test data from a recent project of the Buyer Beware initiative which tracked the number of click-through to ads about sex buying. The peak time for click-throughs was 2pm. Given the preliminary nature of this study, we listed 2pm as a peak time. This initial study formed the starting point for a national study by Demand Abolition, to be completed by the end of 2015.