Agency asking for signature on blank paper
Thread poster: Katalin Horváth McClure

Katalin Horváth McClure  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 13:43
Member (2002)
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Aug 18, 2014

Today I received a mass email from one of the large agencies operating internationally. It came from their UK branch, specifically from a PM in the group that handles Financial/Legal translations. (This piece of info makes the story even more interesting.)
So, she is saying that in order to provide the UK courts with certified translations, they are asking their translators to provide a copy of their signature ("You can sign on a white piece of paper and scan it back to us") and they will use it on a certificate that they deliver to their client. The reason for this is to save time as they often don't have the time to reach out to the linguist to provide this certificate, so they want to have the signatures so they could use it when needed. They would ask the linguist's consent when they are planning to use his/her signature.
Interesting, isn't it?
These are one of those things that make the hair raise on my back.
Furthermore, they attached the template of the certificate, where the translator signs saying that he/she has the following qualifications and he/she translated the document, and then the second half of the page contains a text where the agency's PM certifies the accuracy of the translation... (!!!!)

Here is what I replied:
"Dear XXX,
I think a much more clear and legally "clean" process would be to ask the translator to deliver the certificate with the actual translation.
That would solve the delay problem and the translator could be more comfortable with the issue.
Asking anybody to sign a blank sheet of paper is a legally questionable practice from many points of view.
Furthermore, the actual wording of the certificate raises two questions right away:

1. If you have the translator sign this certificate, that means there is no editing/proofreading done after the translation step. That would probably be in conflict with your ISO certification. If there IS editing/proofreading after the translation, then it is likely that changes are made to the translation over which the translator has no control, therefore, his/her signature would be associated with a document that was changed after his/her work.

2. How on earth could the PM, who often does not speak the source and/or the target language, and has no appropriate qualifications, certify in any form the accuracy of the translation???
Have you guys thought it through?"

I am curious to hear what others think of this.
Katalin


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 18:43
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Remarkable restraint Aug 18, 2014

Katalin Horváth McClure wrote:
Here is what I replied:
"Dear XXX,
I think a much more clear and legally "clean" process would be to ask the translator to deliver the certificate with the actual translation.
That would solve the delay problem and the translator could be more comfortable with the issue.
Asking anybody to sign a blank sheet of paper is a legally questionable practice from many points of view.
Furthermore, the actual wording of the certificate raises two questions right away:

1. If you have the translator sign this certificate, that means there is no editing/proofreading done after the translation step. That would probably be in conflict with your ISO certification. If there IS editing/proofreading after the translation, then it is likely that changes are made to the translation over which the translator has no control, therefore, his/her signature would be associated with a document that was changed after his/her work.

2. How on earth could the PM, who often does not speak the source and/or the target language, and has no appropriate qualifications, certify in any form the accuracy of the translation???
Have you guys thought it through?"

I think my reply might have been a little less patient. How on earth did they become a large agency operating internationally? And have they learned absolutely nothing along the way?

Of course the usual is going to happen: a load of probably young, and definitely naïve, translators will do as they're told.


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Terry Richards
France
Local time: 19:43
French to English
+ ...
I'd be happy to do this... Aug 18, 2014

...just as soon as they send me their CFO's signature on a blank sheet of paper. Or, to save a step, they could just send it on a blank cheque.

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Michael Joseph Wdowiak Beijer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 18:43
Member (2009)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Digital signing solutions Aug 18, 2014

On a side note, I wish more companies would look into digital signing solutions. There are quite a few options these days, all of them a lot easier and less time-consuming than printing, signing and scanning.

Michael


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LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 13:43
Russian to English
+ ...
They cannot be serious. Aug 18, 2014

Never do anything like that. In the case there are any serious problems, they will close down, and you will go to jail.

[Edited at 2014-08-18 13:01 GMT]


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Rossana Triaca  Identity Verified
Uruguay
Local time: 14:43
Member (2002)
English to Spanish
thank you... Aug 18, 2014

for sharing this, because I dearly needed a laugh today!! 

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Annamaria Amik  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:43
Romanian to English
+ ...
Outrageous Aug 18, 2014

How on earth is scanning a blank paper with signature faster than scanning the actual translation with the same signature, if indeed necessary?

This practice was and may still be wide spread in Romania. There was a huge scandal in the translation business, followed, as far as I know, by a criminal case, relating to this very action. A lady built up an entire translation business with such signatures, forged many documents, even her own college certificate. Here's the link to the Romanian forum: http://www.proz.com/forum/romanian/174959-[avertisment_scam]_caz_de_fraudă_rog_ajutor.html

I think that even asking for such a blank may be borderline criminal activity...


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Paweł Hamerski
Poland
Local time: 19:43
English to Polish
+ ...
Exactly the same happened several years ago in Poland Aug 18, 2014

with the same outcome.

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Katalin Horváth McClure  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 13:43
Member (2002)
English to Hungarian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
And as I said, it was their LEGAL department, Aug 18, 2014

And as I said, it was their LEGAL translation department, asking for this, on the account of providing translations for the UK courts.


I posted this here because I am afraid of the same thing as Sheila, that many inexperienced and/or work-hungry translators would just do what they ask, without even thinking.

Katalin

[Edited at 2014-08-18 14:22 GMT]


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Texte Style
Local time: 19:43
French to English
Terry Aug 18, 2014

is spot on!
Thanks for the laugh!
And yes, I do hope that inexperienced translators will not do that!


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Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 19:43
English to Polish
+ ...
Legal dept. Aug 18, 2014

Yeah, lawyers do that. Their trusted secretaries hold keys to the magic box containing the boss's signature on blank paper for emergencies. Doesn't surprise me they'd ask a translator for the same.

Whether it's legal/permissible for you to give it to them depends on any applicable regulation governing certified translations, including any rules made by the associations of which you're a member or especially those whose authority you invoke when certifying.

Whether it's legal for them to put together such certifications would depend on how any applicable laws are interpreted in relevant jurisdictions. If it's a crime, then you'd be an accomplice. If it falls within more or less acceptable business practice (and it could — because it happens with your consent and within an agreed framework for a legitimate purpose), then you're clean.

But you need to ask a lawyer. Actually, more like two lawyers: a business lawyer who would know the legal signing habits (for lack of a better expression to cover laws, customs and good practices), and a criminal lawyer who could be relied on to know how criminal law looks on such cases, which could be very surprising to a business lawyer. (Whereas the typical criminal lawyer may be somewhat ignorant in business matters.)

Also, you can send scans before you post the thing. In some cases public or especially private bodies will accept a copy/scan on an interim basis (when they have the leeway to do so, which in some countries they don't).

[Edited at 2014-08-18 15:41 GMT]


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philgoddard
United States
Member (2009)
German to English
+ ...
What's wrong with this? Aug 18, 2014

Certification is a pain. You have to print out a page, and then sign, scan and send it, which takes up to ten minutes. They're offering to do it for you.

As long as they kept their promise to ask for permission each time, I'd be perfectly happy with this arrangement.


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2G Trad  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 19:43
Member (2000)
English to Italian
+ ...
Weird, but not illegal Aug 18, 2014

Katalin Horváth McClure:
The reason for this is to save time as they often don't have the time to reach out to the linguist to provide this certificate, so they want to have the signatures so they could use it when needed. They would ask the linguist's consent when they are planning to use his/her signature.


They could easily bypass the alleged time wasting procedures by asking all their translators to add this certificate to each translation they deliver.

Anyway, for those who already sent them the signed blank sheet, I don't think this could end in a fraud or something illegal, since otherwise they would not have asked for it publicly by e-mail, but they would have simply taken the signature from a signed NDA or the likes.

Cheers
Gianni


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Annamaria Amik  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:43
Romanian to English
+ ...
Implications Aug 18, 2014

2G Trad wrote:
Anyway, for those who already sent them the signed blank sheet, I don't think this could end in a fraud or something illegal, since otherwise they would not have asked for it publicly by e-mail, but they would have simply taken the signature from a signed NDA or the likes.


I wouldn't be so optimistic. They could add this certification to translations done by translators who are much cheaper and have no credentials, or to translations which do not reflect the original texts, but can be used for misleading authorities. How can you prove you never certified that translation if something goes wrong? You could add a proviso in your agreement with the agency that any use of your certification must be confirmed by you at least post factum, but isn't that more complicated than actually certifying your translations when necessary?

Particularly because they asked for scanned certifications, I don't see how they could possibly save you any admin work. You can simply send the same scan with your translation anytime they ask for a certified translation.

[Edited at 2014-08-18 22:28 GMT]


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Katalin Horváth McClure  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 13:43
Member (2002)
English to Hungarian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
I tell you what is wrong with this Aug 20, 2014

philgoddard wrote:

Certification is a pain. You have to print out a page, and then sign, scan and send it, which takes up to ten minutes. They're offering to do it for you.


No, they are not. They are offering to copy-paste my scanned signature on something out of my control.
I can do the same copy-pasting myself (so, I don't have to print out a page and sign it and scan it), but I would know WHAT I am pasting it on. I think there is a difference in control, and no difference in time required.

As long as they kept their promise to ask for permission each time, I'd be perfectly happy with this arrangement.


The operative phrase is "as long as they kept their promise".
From the way the operate, I absolutely have no confidence in that. Not because they want to cheat, but because their operations are often chaotic and they take on jobs with extremely short deadlines. Their PMs are pressured into situations where I would not be surprised if they thought "oh, just this one time".

By the way, I would be curious to know what you think of the issue of editing/proofreading that I brought up in my initial post. I think that is at least as big of a problem as having control over somebody's scanned signature.

Katalin


[Edited at 2014-08-20 09:40 GMT]


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