Agency claiming financial difficulties won't pay me before... 2014!
Thread poster: Emmanuelle Debon
Emmanuelle Debon  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:41
English to French
+ ...
Jul 14, 2011

Hi everybody,

I am a French Toulouse-based free-lance translator working with a number of European customers.

I've translated two small books (German to French) last February and April for a Spanish Agency, total sum of 1200€. Payment was 90 days, but now they claim they face financial problems and have to achieve settlements with all their debtors so as to be able to pursue business. Their lawyer sent me a mail (in Spanish) explaining their intended payment calendar : after cutting my fee by 30% (!!!), they would pay the rest by instalments : 20% between october and December, 20% between March and May 2012, and 30% in three instalments paid in 2012, 2013 and 2014.
Of course I won't accept such conditions (especially the 30% discount) but as I am not familiar with legal procedures, could someone kindly tell me what my options are to be fully paid?
Do you think I also may legally prevent them from having the books I translated published?

Many thanks for your help.

I wish you a nice Summer.

Emmanuelle


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Lawyer-Linguist  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 02:41
Dutch to English
+ ...
One way of looking at it ... Jul 14, 2011

Hi Emmanuelle,

Sorry to hear about your problems.

For the agency's proposed repayment plan to work, it would need to continue operating. If this is its standard approach to all translators who are owed money - and if it isn't you'd have a case of undue preference - there is little doubt in my mind that the current group of translators would stop working with it, and it would find it extremely difficult to find new ones once this news hits Blue Board and other payment practice lists.

It's your decision at the end of the day, but I see little chance of the terms of the repayment plan being met. I'd have no qualms against refusing to support it and insist on payment according to the original terms, hoping the other translators would follow suit, if only to force them into liquidation. That process won't be finalised any quicker, and you may end up getting far less as your creditor's dividend, but at least you won't be bankrolling the directors' personal lives until they do have to ultimately call it a day and liquidate themselves. If an agency is undercapitalised, it shouldn't be trading. Period.

As for getting your money back, I wouldn't hold my breath. Even if you were to obtain judgment against the agency, you'd probably be standing in a very long queue, and by the time you have your court order it may already be liquidated.

As for the publication of the books, I'd advise seeing a lawyer. The publishing house isn't your debtor, the translation agency is, which complicates matters. Bear in mind actions are costly, so you'd have to weigh up his/her advice carefully and consider whether it is realistically worth your while.

Finally, as a general guideline and not criticism of you, Emmanuelle, if agencies try to negotiate 90-day payment terms it's usually a clear sign that their cash flow is not up to scratch, they are undercapitalised and are living from hand to mouth. Steer clear!

Best of luck
Debs

[Edited at 2011-07-14 12:36 GMT]


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Emmanuelle Debon  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:41
English to French
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you Jul 14, 2011

Thanks, Debs, for your reply and point of view. It is helpful as it confirms what I thought, although the perspective is not an optimistic one. I consequently won't agree to the agency's terms of settlement and hope the other debtors will do the same...

Have a nice week end,

Emmanuelle


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 02:41
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Whose lawyer? Jul 14, 2011

Hello Emmanuelle,

You say it was their lawyer who proposed this settlement. I'm wondering if they've already gone into receivership and this was from the official receiver. I don't know enough about these things to know if that's the sort of offer a receiver might make but I did have dealings once with a receiver and I do know that everything the company did for many months afterwards was totally and utterly driven by the receiver - every invoice was 100% guaranteed. Until the receivership ended I got everything I was owed, then I received a letter saying that the company was now out of receivership - that signalled the end of our relationship, I'm afraid as I'm just too small to take on their risk.

Of course, there's no way you could accept a discount! I wonder why they are suggesting one.

One thing that occurs to me that I've heard a lot about here is that until you have been paid (in full) you own these translations. So technically they can't be published until 2014. That might give you just a little leverage, if indeed it is the case. Something for you to speak to your own lawyer about.

Good luck and let us know if anything more transpires. We all learn from these problems.

Sheila


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Thayenga  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 03:41
Member (2009)
English to German
+ ...
Copyrights Jul 14, 2011

Sheila Wilson wrote:

One thing that occurs to me that I've heard a lot about here is that until you have been paid (in full) you own these translations. So technically they can't be published until 2014. That might give you just a little leverage, if indeed it is the case. Something for you to speak to your own lawyer about.
Sheila


Hello Emmanuelle,

I agree that you should not accept their repayment plan, above all not the 30% "discount".

Hopefully you did receive a Work/Purchase Order prior to having started on the translations. Usually, and unless otherwise agreed upon, the translator holds the copyright on the translation. Consequently, the publishing company cannot publish the books without having properly secured the copyrights on the translation.

I don't know whether your agreement with the agency even mentioned or included any copyright issues. Now, I'm not a lawyer, but I do know from experience as a writer that copyright infringements (e.g. publication without having legally obtained the copyright) are taken very seriously. You might want to speak with your lawyer about this point as well.

Furthermore, you should seriously and carefully consider whether you wish to make the name of this agency known to the public. This may not help you in your present situation, but it will certainly be a warning for other translators. Especially when this agency has already been liquidated.


All the best. And don't give up!

Thayenga


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JL01  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 21:41
English to French
+ ...
Sauter sur l'offre Jul 14, 2011

Si l'entreprise est effectivementt en redressement judiciaire (ce qui reste bien sûr à vérifier), ça veut dire qu'elle n'a plus de liquidités, ou en tout cas pas assez pour payer tous ses créditeurs.

Sachant qu'il est plus que probable que, en Espagne comme en France, certains créanciers (les impôts, l'URSSAF, etc.) ont priorité, ce sont de toute manière les autres fournisseurs qui y laissent des plumes, les plus petits y laissant le plus de plumes.

Personnellement, je sauterais sur l'occasion, qui risque fort de ne pas être renouvelée. Mieux vaut tenir la proie que l'ombre, et obtenir un peu d'argent tout de suite que miser sur la quasi-certitude de ne rien avoir plus tard.

Jean Lachaud (NY)


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