Alleged Flawed Translation at Heart of Commercial Bank Liquidation in Latvia

An allegedly flawed translation risks undermining Latvia’s attempts to rein in and clean up its banking system.

The translated financial assessment of one of the country’s commercial banks, Trasta Komercbanka AS, submitted to the European Central Bank by the national regulator, led to it having its license withdrawn. It is now facing liquidation. However, the accuracy of the translation and its faithfulness to the original Latvian assessment has come under immense scrutiny.

As a result, German lawyer Okko Hendrik Behrends, a partner at DLA Piper in Frankfurt, is preparing a lawsuit against the regulator, the Financial and Capital Market Commission (FCMC), on the grounds that, first, the investigation failed to comply to with the proper procedures and, second, that the assessment submitted to the ECB was not only mistranslated, but omitted crucial information and even contained passages not found in the original document that was issued earlier in the year.

Speaking to Today Translations, Behrends stated that the most important error discovered in the translation was that it “omitted a crucial statement that the withdrawal of the license was not appropriate”.

“It omitted entire sections, paragraphs and even parts of sentences but also contained text which was not contained in the original Latvian document,” he added. He says that no explanation has been provided by the FCMC as of yet.

According to Behrends, Latvia and the FCMC have experienced increasing external pressures to prove that due progress is being made in the area of anti-money laundering and corruption. And while he does not deem that the regulatory regime within Trasta Komercbanka was absolutely perfect (indeed, very few banks are), he maintains that the regulator made an example out of the bank in order issue a warning to Latvia’s other financial institutions.

This example provides a case in point about having sensitive materials translated independently and, if used for official purposes, certified by a registered translation agency. Questions marks might be raised as to why the ECB validated a financial assessment that was seemingly translated on behalf of the regulator themselves, rather than by a non-associated professional translator working on behalf of an independent agency and likely therefore not to have been officially certified.

This case also demonstrates how exponentially the risks can increase within the professional services once translated materials begin to be included in the fold. Professional firms, regulators and official bodies should know that any translated material that is presented as a form of evidence must be absolutely true to the source, and that any alterations, intentional or otherwise, weaken the regulatory rules and may even to lead to an obstruction of justice.