Certified Legal Translation for FCPA Compliance in 2020

Certified Legal Translation for FCPA Purposes

Is certified legal translation relevant to compliance counsel and their clients in this modern era of Google Translate?

Absolutely. Enforcement of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) is alive and well as of 2020. According to renowned FCPA attorney Bill Steinman, “2020 has been noteworthy for the volume of fines and penalties imposed to date.” Indeed, current legal developments point to sustained FCPA enforcement activity in a post-pandemic world. And with added FCPA compliance risk comes enhanced responsibility on the translation front.


Certified Legal Translation in the FCPA Context 

FCPA compliance frequently requires the translation of large volumes of foreign-language documentation. For example, a large multinational entity falling within scope of FCPA application will need to provide accurately translated compliance manuals and related protocols to its staff worldwide.

On the enforcement side, law firms acting in their clients’ interest will likewise need to work with legal translation professionals to the extent that a target company’s compliance documentation and internal communications are in another language. Beyond providing translation, an FCPA translation team will be able to assist counsel on questions of law, including helping to identify foreign-language communications in respect of which attorney-client privilege may be established.


Buy Cheap, Buy Twice

Technical accuracy and meticulousness are paramount given the stakes involved. FCPA enforcement actions can change the entire course of a company’s future. Just look at Airbus, which recently agreed to a global settlement of US$3.9 billion, due in large part to charges of violation of the FCPA’s anti-bribery provision. Where documents must be submitted for review by a court or executive agency, there is no question that we would advise employing a team of experienced FCPA translators, editors, and legal professionals to fully and accurately translate and sign off on the case materials.

Machine translation in the FCPA context should be used for a limited purpose and with great care. To illustrate its limitation, let’s take the Portuguese term propina, which often comes up in documentation related to Brazilian anti-corruption investigations and proceedings. A machine might render a plain meaning translation of propina, which is “tip” in the sense of a gratuity. However, the correct Portuguese to English translation in our context would likely be “kickback,” a form of payment prohibited under the FCPA. A legal translator experienced in FCPA document translation will always catch the difference.

To be sure that you’re getting the most out of your translation provider, ask the tough questions. Here are among 3 we’d suggest: 

  1. Who is actually performing the translation work and what are these individuals’ qualifications? 
  2. What sort of quality controls are in place to ensure the mitigation of translation error? 
  3. How will post-delivery queries in relation to the translated materials be handled? 


Do you require certified legal translation for FCPA compliance purposes or are you representing a client facing enforcement? Please email us to discuss the translation needs of your particular FCPA case.

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