FCPA Compliance and Ethics Blog

November 21, 2011

Don’t Get Lost in [FCPA] Translation

Filed under: FCPA,Investigations — tfoxlaw @ 1:58 am
Tags: , ,

Jay  Rosen

Ed. Note-today we have a guest post by Jay Rosen.

In late October, a colleague and I were having breakfast with Tom Fox in Houston. We were in town to participate in an FCPA event which we were hosting with Akin Gump and Deloitte. While we were trading war stories about past and ongoing investigations, Tom proposed the following scenario:

“You’ve just stepped off the tarmac in Beijing and you are speeding in a SUV to your client’s headquarters to begin collecting documents. What do you need to know before you walk through that door and what steps could you have taken ahead of time to prepare for that day?”

While the answer to his question could take many different angles (depending on your role in the investigation), my response was focused on best practices for managing the foreign language portion of a case. Clients often reach out to me for advice on managing translations for FCPA and white collar investigations, cross-border litigations and related matters. Though each translation matter posses its own unique set of challenges, the common denominator is “What is the most cost effective way to match the proper translation solution with the needs of this case?”

Many clients consider translation to be something they can handle in-house since:

  • “Becky down the hall speaks Spanish”
  • “I’ll use Google Translate”
  • “The associates in our Paris office can handle this”
  • “The forensic accountants in Beijing or the document reviewers in Shenzhen can translate this information on the fly.”

In certain circumstances, all of these options have some validity, but for a mission critical project where accuracy and deadlines are key, these are not typically the best choice.

FCPA matters demand a different level of sophistication and execution. By engaging a professional Language Service Provider (LSP) at the front end of your investigation, you can leverage filtering and translation solutions that will result in a more cost and time efficient language management process. These solutions include:

  • Language Identification
  • Foreign Language Key Word Search
  • Machine Translation
  • Summary Translations
  • Human Translations

This method of filtering foreign language data utilizing technology solutions (Language Identification, Foreign Language Key Word Search and Machine Translation) ensures that you only translate those documents that are absolutely necessary. For example, in a recent Turkish FCPA matter, Merrill Brink’s filtering tools reduced the number of translated documents to 3,000 out of an initial universe of 1,000,000.

While it is tempting to employ the least costly solution, or utilize “boots on the ground” instead of hiring professional translators, the end result of this decision often requires professional translators (who should have started the process in the first place) being brought in to salvage the job and finish it correctly.

In circling back to our initial question — “What do you need to know before you walk through that door and what steps could you have taken ahead of time to prepare for that day?”

Any company with global operations, if they do not already have a trusted translation provider, must seek out a LSP with the capabilities to employ both technology and human translation solutions to minimize the ultimate number of words (pages) to be translated and to match the most cost effective level of translation with each individual stage of the investigation. This is important not only from an investigation and auditing perspective, but these same translation resources can be leveraged to localize compliance, training, eLearning and code of conduct content throughout the organization.

All of these tools should be utilized to reduce the amount of data that require full translation. Thus the only documents requiring full translations are those that must be presented to an official body (DOJ, SEC).

By knowing this information in advance, the team in the speeding SUV can concentrate on the job at hand — securing the location, collecting the data and interviewing employees. After all this information has been collected, and a LSP has been engaged, they can begin to leverage the above mentioned tools and filtering processes to match appropriate translation solutions to each step of the investigation , contain the costs of human translations and most importantly produce the highest quality translations from professional linguists.

Jay Rosen is a Vice President, Language Solutions at Merrill Brink International, based in Los Angeles, where he advises businesses and law firms on translation solutions for FCPA, Compliance, Code of Conduct and eLearning. He can be reached via email at jay.rosen@merrillcorp.com and via phone at 310-729-6746.

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