Posted by: patenttranslator | April 29, 2016

Slator.com Goes Boldly Where ATA (American Translators Association) Members Fear to Tread

“As a member of the American Translators Association, I would never discuss translation rates in a public forum”, said for the n-th time a presenter at the recent BP (Business Practices) Conference of translators in Prague where I was one of the participants and presenters, before she launched again into a generalized comparison of rates charged by various translation agencies for translating the same text. Each time she said it with a completely serious face – about half a dozen times during her presentation – her qualifying statement, which could have been taken seriously based on the expression on her face, or as a joke, take your pick, was met with the same reaction – a whole room of translators appreciatively erupting into laughter and chuckling at what she said.

The translators, and I was one of them, were laughing at the absurdity of her statement. No business can exist and survive without having a good understanding of the fees that it can charge its customers. Because knowing how much or how little your competition is charging means that you known how much you yourself can get away with, this knowledge is one of the most important pieces of intelligence that any service supplier simply must have.

Just about every month I receive a few fake “Price Quote Requests” from a would-be competitor who wants to know how much I charge for the kind of work that I do …. in order to charge one cent less. This month it was some Korean guy who lives in China. He sent me a Japanese patent for a price quote for translation from the handy Price Quote Request Form on my website, while pretending to be representing some Chinese Patent Research Institute.

I almost fell for his trick because when I ran a Google search, I found out that such an institution really exists and that it is based in Singapore. But because the guy only gave me a Gmail address, I was not convinced and continued searching until I was able to establish that he probably has nothing to do with this research institution because the fax number that he gave me, (he did not give me a phone number so that I could not talk to him), was listed on a well known blind auction translation site where he was looking for translators to work for him. So I ignored him and he still does not know how much I charge.

Because translation rates or fees are so important, the ATA (American Translators Association) has recently updated its policy on rules for ATA members who are speaking in public venues about translation rates. Under the pretext of compliance with Antitrust legislation, created a century ago to protect little people from all-powerful corporations in the era of robber barons, these rules are now applied by the ATA to achieve the opposite effect of what was intended by the original legislators, namely to keep ATA members in darkness when it comes to how much or how little they should charge for translating and interpreting services. As Tony Rosado, like myself also an ATA member, put it on his blog:

When applied today, the rules conceived to protect the weak from the powerful, provide shelter to multinationals like Capita, SOSi, and LionBridge who take advantage, with the blessing of some of our professional associations, of the legal ban to talk about fees and working conditions of professional interpreters and translators who are forced to negotiate with commercial, not professional, entities who take advantage of any circumstance they can use in their favor.

Fortunately, non-ATA members, who flocked to the BP16 Conference in Prague from many countries in all the five continents, are not subject to the ATA gag order on discussion of rates in public. Apparently, unlike in the land of the free and the home of the brave, translators are still free to discuss in  public venues anything they want, including rates and fees, in enlightened countries where democracy is more robust and freedom of speech is still a given, such as in Lukashenko’s Belarus or in Sisi’s Egypt (I had the pleasure of talking at length to translators from both of these countries at the conference in Prague).

Slator.com apparently is not subject to ATA’s gag order on rates because it recently published a review of rates that various translation agencies in the United States are charging to the US government, as this information is publicly available on the website of the General Service Administration (GSA) of the US government. “In its quest for transparency, the GSA went as far as publishing all the proposals (schedules) submitted to it by its accredited language services providers” (quoted from Slator).

Apparently, the US government is not bound by the ATA’s gag order on rates either, only ATA members must keep mum on the tricky and dangerous issue … if they know what’s good for them!

It is a well known fact that the US government is trying to pay as little as possible for professional services purchased and that it is usually easier to get away with higher rates, especially for rush translations, when one works for direct clients, such as patent law firms.

But I happen to know that it pays quickly, generally in three weeks, and pretty good rates, especially compared to the kind of rates that some translation agencies, especially the big ones, would like to pay to translators because I do sometime work directly for the US government myself. In particular, I translate Japanese and German patents for the Department of Justice.

Thanks to Slator, I was able to ascertain from the range of rates published on its site that the rates that I am charging to US government are quite reasonable.

By publishing the rates that an agency of the US government is paying for translation to various translation agencies, the General Services Administration is, perhaps unwittingly, doing what major translation agencies and the American Translators Association, which should really be working for us translators and not for corporatized translation agencies, are trying to prevent, namely making existentially important information available to all translators.

As I have already discovered from the reaction on social media when I tweeted about the analysis of government rates paid to translation agencies on Slator, several translators expressed an outrage at how little the people who do the actual translating work, called translators, are being paid by same agencies who may be charging the customers much, much more than what the people doing the work can ultimately receive in the current translation agency model.

That Slator brought a little bit more transparency into the issue of rates is definitely appreciated by translators, and definitely very much unappreciated by the translation agencies whose business model abhors transparency like nature abhors vacuum. The funny thing is, neither is it appreciated by the ATA, which should be working for us, translators, but based on its policy about keeping mum on rates, is working for the agencies.

I think that the powers that be at the ATA should ask themselves the following question:

In the age of Internet, does it really make sense to try to manufacture ignorance by prohibiting members of an association of translators from discussing in public fees and rates that are paid to translators by direct clients and by translation agencies?

Apart from the issue of legality – the first Amendment to the US Constitution states unequivocally that the freedom of speech may not be abridged, not even by the American Translators Association when it comes to talking about rates – the problem is that this gag order simply cannot be enforced in modern society no matter how threateningly and legalistically it may be formulated and how convoluted the argument for its existence may be.

Disclaimer: As a member of many years of the American Translators Association, I would never, ever, discuss concrete translation rates and fees in public  venues, as I am aware of the ATA’s policy regarding strict prohibition of speaking publicly about translation rates and fees in compliance with the US Antitrust legislation.

I am merely commenting on information that is publicly available on the Internet and linking to it on my blog, which is probably still allowed by the American Translators Association.

(In the video below, a singer who was banned in Czechoslovakia for two decades is singing in a concert after he was able to return home when the communist regime finally fell. Notice how everybody knows the words of the banned songs and how many people are mouthing them as if in disbelief that they lived long enough to see and hear him again. He died a few years later).

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Responses

  1. Hi Steve,

    Very interesting.

    The ATA’s ban on talking about translation rates or fees is not only ridiculous, it is also no doubt in conflict with the right to free speech, as defended under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

    Of course, people can be prevented contractually from talking about certain things, usually for reasons of business secrecy or confidentiality, but that is certainly not the case with the ATA.

    Its ban is based on an excessively cautious, simplistic and erroneous interpretation of U.S. antitrust law, and more specifically of the Sherman Antitrust Act and its provisions to prevent price fixing.

    Of course, translators can talk about prices and say what they think about them. I really don’t understand why the ATA would try to prevent them from doing so.

    Although U.S. law is particularly strict when it comes to competition – and not only the agreement on prices between competitors but also the exchange of information between them can be in violation of antitrust law – such law would normally only apply to an exchange of information that is capable of restraining trade and increasing prices, and for an exchange of information to have a material impact on a market there has to be a small number of very big players in that market, i.e. an oligopoly.

    The translation market is certainly not that. If the very largest multinational translation companies (or “language service providers”, if you prefer”) agreed to collude on prices that could increase the price of a specific job they happen to be bidding on. However, it would certainly have no measureable impact on the average market price for translations.

    Furthermore, such an exchange of information would necessarily be clandestine. It’s insane to think that the Sherman Antitrust Act, or similar legislation, should apply to a public exchange of information, since information to collude on prices would not be exchanged publically. Moreover, doing something publically and doing it in collusion are mutually exclusive.

    And if it can be construed that the Sherman Antitrust Act also applies to information that is exchanged publically, then should translators even be allowed to indicate their rates or fees on their websites, since this can enable the exchange of price information? But then of course other vendors of products or services would have to be prevented from doing this too. Getting a bit silly isn’t it.

    Have a good weekend and keep up the good work.

    Charles

    Liked by 4 people

    • I think the best thing a translator can is learn how to use translation skills to train machine translation models. Big agencies are beginning to sign on to orgs like TAUS to leverage that technology. It’ll not only undermine prices but totally eliminate competition in some markets.

      Like

  2. “If the very largest multinational translation companies (or “language service providers”, if you prefer”) agreed to collude on prices that could increase the price of a specific job they happen to be bidding on. However, it would certainly have no measureable impact on the average market price for translations.

    Furthermore, such an exchange of information would necessarily be clandestine. It’s insane to think that the Sherman Antitrust Act, or similar legislation, should apply to a public exchange of information, since information to collude on prices would not be exchanged publically. Moreover, doing something publically and doing it in collusion are mutually exclusive.”

    Good points, I did not think of that. The ATA has a couple of decades ago publicly announced and recommended a minimum translation rate, which kind of does clash with Sherman Antitrust Act, depending on how you formulate it, sort of, anyway, which is why it was sued by the US government (after the government was prompted to sue ATA by agencies), and ATA then had to spend a lot of money defending itself as a result of its idiotic decision. (No wonder the government has no time going after the fraudsters on Wall Street when it is so busy going after translators’ rates. Everybody knows that translators would like to charge at least as much as Wall Street Bankers and if they were allowed to do that, it could sink the economy!)

    All the ATA had to do back then was to formulate its statement about rates slightly differently and it would have been safe from any government claims of violating Antitrust law. But the people who ran the ATA back then were apparently not exactly great thinkers.

    As a result, burger flippers can and do demand a living wage and go on strike in United States to achieve just that, but translators can not.

    But its recent prohibition that the ATA is trying to impose on constitutionally protected free speech of ATA members leaves most of its members scratching their heads in disbelief.

    It does seem that the recent ATA directive, which is aimed at preventing translators from talking openly about translation rates, is the product of an obedient handmaiden of “the translation industry”, i.e. translation agencies, does it not?

    What other purpose could it possibly serve than manufacture ignorance about rates among translators? This ignorance is extremely detrimental to the interests of translators, but it would be obviously very useful to translation agencies.

    Liked by 2 people

    • You wrote: “The ATA has a couple of decades ago publicly announced and recommended a minimum translation rate, which kind of does clash with Sherman Antitrust Act, depending on how you formulate it, sort of, anyway, which is why it was sued by the US government (after the government was prompted to sue ATA by agencies), and ATA then had to spend a lot of money defending itself as a result of its idiotic decision.”

      In 2003 the Belgian Chamber of Translators and Interpreters was officially forbidden from publishing again minimum recommended rates, which it had published in its 2003-2004 directory (which I kept religiously, of course!).

      But, as far as I know, the Belgian Chamber of Translators and Interpreters was not sued.

      The Chamber was already running a one-million Belgian franc debt at the time (divide by 40 to get the nearly correct amount in euros).

      The problem is, our judiciary systems usually wholly underpay translators and interpreters, so these kinds of officially minimum recommended rates put them in a difficult position.

      Even if these are just only “recommended” minimum rates…

      I still do not understand the legal foundation for such prohibition.

      Every freelance translator has living + investment expenses to face and newbies as well as end clients (and non-translating intermediaries) have trouble assessing how much should be charged.

      There should be more talk about hourly rates and about the number of words translators translate per hour on average, according to whether certain types of translations require a lot of terminological research or not.

      Thus translators should talk more often to their intermediaries and direct clients about the TIME they spend on translation, including about the time spent on saving their terminology so as not to lose the result of their research, according to the type of computer system that is imposed on them: it only takes a few seconds to save terminology in MS Word’s AutoCorrect, whereas it takes much much longer to save terminology in SDL MultiTerm’s ill-conceived termbases, for example!

      Like

  3. Murray Rothbard (Library of Economics and Liberty) quoted the famed sixteenth-century French essayist Michel de Montaigne as arguing that in any trade, one party must benefit at the expense of the other—that in every transaction there is a winner and a loser, an “exploiter” and an “exploited.”

    It seems that in modern crapitalism nothing has changed (grab what you can and let the devil take the hindmost), except mass deception through propaganda.

    It is my understanding that the modern myth of a ‘free market’ assumes both complete and asymmetric availability of information. It seems to me that in the ‘market for translator services’, particularly through blind auction sites such as Proz et al, the LSP is at a complete and significant advantage (in terms of market power). The LSP knows all about the fees charged by translators, whereas the translators know nothing about the fees charged by their colleagues.

    It’s an excellent example of market failure as a result of ‘asymmetric information’ in a principle-agent relationship. For further reading: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Principal%E2%80%93agent_problem

    I am not familiar with US anti-trust legislation, so I’ll refrain from comment.

    It seems to me that the blind auction sites are a spectacular ‘business innovation’, where those paying to have (full) access, lose; whereas those who essentially use the site for free, win!
    It also seems to me that ‘translator associations’ that have LSPs as members, are having the same effect (as demonstrated above).

    Liked by 2 people

  4. “It also seems to me that ‘translator associations’ that have LSPs as members, are having the same effect (as demonstrated above).”

    Yes, such associations of translators do have the same effect as blind translation auction sites – they drive the rates paid to translators down. That is not debatable.

    But can the rate secrecy doctrine, or manufactured ignorance principle, or whatever one might call it, exist in the age of Internet, blogs and all kinds of online publications that cannot be controlled by these frenemy associations?

    I don’t think so …. the reason why the translators were laughing and chuckling at the presentation is that they understand the absurdity of this doctrine.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. At the dawn of the ‘computer age’, it became clear to some of us, that a flawed system could be speeded up to become a major disaster with the help of computers.

    It seems to me that the ‘information age’ with its deluge of (mis)information is demonstrating a similar pattern of expanding the depth and scale of ignorance.
    I have often found that people lose sight of ‘first principles’ among the myriad ‘expert’ opinions (forest for the trees).

    Clarity is diffused by mountains of BS (opinions) masquerading as information.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. […] “As a member of the American Translators Association, I would never discuss translation rates in a public forum”, said for the n-th time a presenter at the recent BP (Business Practices) Conference of translators in Prague where I was one of the participants and presenters, before she launched again into a generalized comparison of…  […]

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Steve,

    To be fair, I suppose the ATA’s attempt to discourage talk about translation rates among its members may be attributable to a genuine fear of another expensive lawsuit. Such an overly cautious attitude reminds me of the French expression “A cat that has been scalded will be afraid of cold water”.

    However, there is a big difference between the explicit recommendation of a minimum price by an association that has thousands of members and the opinion and even the recommendation of an individual translator. Given its size and influence, a recommendation from the ATA could possibly have a significant impact on translation rates in the U.S. market. So I can understand why the ATA was considered to have run afoul of antitrust law.

    Still it makes no sense to discourage translators in general from talking about rates. Without a doubt, it is perfectly legal for a translator to express his or her opinion about translation prices and even say that he or she would never work for less than a specific rate or fee.

    And being a member of the ATA does not change anything in respect of this, since the ATA cannot get into trouble for anything its members say or write unless they are expressing themselves on behalf of the ATA in some official capacity, or perhaps are expressing themselves publically at an ATA sponsored event or in a ATA publication.

    An ATA “gag order” could only apply to an officer or some other person representing the ATA and/or to a means of communication that the ATA controls.

    Have a good weekend,

    Charles

    Liked by 2 people

  8. And the way you put it, Charles, is the way ATA would have formulated its policy on talking about rates if it were an ally of translators. But it is an ally of translation agencies, not translators, hence the unreasonable gag order, which clashes with our constitutional rights, in particular The First Amendment here in the United States.

    The question I have is: since the government is our enemy in this case, and so is the ATA and translators associations in some other countries (I was told that ITA in Israel has similar policy about the need to keep numb on rates for fear of being sued), do we, translators, have any friends at all?

    Liked by 1 person

    • The IAPTI says it does not have agencies/LSPs among its members. It must be the only translators’ association in the world…

      Like

      • A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.

        (千里之行,始於足下, originally said by the Chinese philosopher Laozi (c 604 bc – c 531 bc, it is also a Japanese proverb: 千里の道も一歩から始まる (senri no michi mo ippo kara hajimaru).

        Liked by 1 person

      • No, Isabelle, the German BDÜ also does not accept agencies in its membership.

        Like

      • Also: no Isabelle, nor do SFT (France), Asetrad (Spain) and many (many) other associations accept corporate members.
        This appears to be a major cultural difference with the Anglo-American scene.
        Even so, the notion that “big agencies” control ATA is nonsensical <– personal opinion founded in fact and stated as the militant freelance translator I am.
        I gather that feeding conspiracy theories (and imagining evil Big Guys who hold all the cards) can be entertaining for those who like such things, but the real weaknesses and challenges for our associations lie elsewhere. And in many cases are not being addressed at all.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. It would not be a leap of the imagination to suggest that the corporate members of your association also find discussion of rates among translators ‘undesirable’……..

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Of course. Translators are supposed to be obedient servants of “the translation industry” and obedient servants are not to be allowed to complain.

    Unfortunately, while translation agencies can make the ATA bend to their iron will, they can’t control what translators say publicly on their blogs, in other, more independent associations of translators, during their conferences, on social media, and in other “public venues”. That is why the ATA gag on public discussions about rates (or what could be called the “rate exception to the constitutionally protected freedom of speech in this country”), is in my opinion so silly, no matter how legalistically convoluted the explanation for it may be.

    Its main effect is that this ban clearly shows to translators who is the ATA really working for and who it is working against.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You wrote: “Translators are supposed to be obedient servants of “the translation industry” and obedient servants are not to be allowed to complain.”:

      It’s exactly that!…

      As a coincidence, I was just moaning about that, thinking of one of my agencies.

      Months ago, I asked my contact person, who is also the agency owner, why they use Trados since they do not seem to ask for rebates.

      She replied that she was too busy to answer that question.

      More recently I asked her about Trados and, again, she replied she was too busy and would answer “later”.

      So I took my phone and called her yesterday and finally got the answers I was looking for.

      She said she prefers to keep all customers’ terminology in TMs.

      She also admitted she offered rebates as soon as there was at least “10%” repetititions (calculated how, I don’t know), even to first-time customers…

      Anyhow, my complain had been about MultiTerm, not about Trados per se, so I said I would try to use MultiTerm databases differently… See what happens…

      But she might already have replaced me.

      So I should have called her weeks ago instead of believing her lies that she was “too busy” to answer…

      If this can help other translators make sooner the decision to call the agency when the subject is too touchy for black on white email text…

      Like

      • A customer who thinks that CAT software is more important than a translator who may or may not be using such a CAT is probably not worth having …. because this customer does not value translators very highly.

        I would not dream of telling my tax preparer what software he should use so that I could pay him less, and if I did, he would laugh at me.

        Liked by 2 people

  11. “In 2003 the Belgian Chamber of Translators and Interpreters was officially forbidden from publishing again minimum recommended rates, which it had published in its 2003-2004 directory (which I kept religiously, of course!).

    But, as far as I know, the Belgian Chamber of Translators and Interpreters was not sued.”

    Since similar gag orders seem to exist also in other countries such as Israel and Belgium, the Sherman Antitrust act is just a pretext that is used here in US, in particular by ATA, to prevent translators from speaking freely about their working conditions.

    In other countries, other pretexts are used, but the goal is the same: to manufacture ignorance among translators.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I really appreciate this post! I have started and am seeking to build a new, small translation company…I place a high value on the transparency you mention, already have learned so much from the several free-lancers I have had the honor to work with on an initial project or two. I personally feel that translators themselves should have as much right and ability to have information as is possible….Kevin Caldwell

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Thank you very much for your comment, Kevin.

    I think that one possible answer to my question about whether translators have any allies is that small translation agencies that unlike “the translation industry” treat translators with respect are their allies. And respect includes respecting their right to be informed about rates, (although not necessarily given direct access to direct clients, in my opinion).

    In addition to being a translator, I am also a small translation agency like many translators, and I try to treat translators who work for me with the same respect that I expect from agencies that I am working for.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Thank you for referencing Slator.com in your post. We are pleased that our coverage of challenging topics is contributing to constructive industry dialogue and analysis such as this blog. Increasing price transparency is not unique to the translation industry and the same Internet technology that is enabling both large and small LSPs to market and expand their client networks globally, is also increasing their clients’ access to suppliers and pricing transparency. However, pricing is only one (albeit important) component in the industry and it is the complexity and dynamism of the global translation that drives Slator’s coverage. This post and several comments in the comments section help shape this coverage and for this too we are grateful.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. “However, pricing is only one (albeit important) component in the industry and it is the complexity and dynamism of the global translation that drives Slator’s coverage.”

    I understand that.

    I find Slator’s coverage interesting and refreshing, and I will probably comment on other issues that Slator will be covering in the future.

    There is really not much information available from other sources about “the translation industry” (I put the term in quotation marks to distinguish it from the translation profession, which “the translation industry” would like to pretend does not even exist.

    I hope one of the issues Slator will address in the future will be the clash between the interests of the industry and those of the profession, especially since nobody else seems to be analyzing this issue.

    But in either case, good luck to you and I look forward to finding real journalism, as opposed to “translation industry” propaganda, in your magazine’s articles which I, and no doubt many other translators as well, find very informational.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You wrote: ” “the translation industry” (I put the term in quotation marks to distinguish it from the translation profession, which “the translation industry” would like to pretend does not even exist). ”

      😀

      Like

  16. Stephen,

    I don’t think the government is the enemy here, since I doubt that it will take action against individuals who talk about translation prices. Although it’s true that the trend over the past few decades in the United States has been to squeeze the little guy while promoting the interests of big business and the super rich, I still think this is unlikely. A lot of crazy things have come out of the United States since I left the country more than 30 years ago, but prosecuting individuals for antritrust/competition violations who have insignificant weight in their market and who exchange information publically would be really surprising. But then again, if Donald Trump can be elected president, then I guess anything is imaginable.

    Some people would no doubt, out of fear or interest, have us believe that all of this is government’s fault. But I really don’t think that’s true.

    It would be nice if the ATA came out and cleared the air with an official statement of its policy as to talking about translation prices.

    Charles

    Like

  17. “It would be nice if the ATA came out and cleared the air with an official statement of its policy as to talking about translation prices.”

    Right.

    Instead, it is doing the exact opposite by trying to issue a gag order on discussion about prices.

    Like

  18. Stephen,

    I’m beginning to wonder, has the ATA come out with some official statement to prohibit translators from talking about translation prices, or is this “ban” just something you have experienced personally?

    Charles

    Like

  19. Hi Charles:

    The ban on discussing prices is an official ATA policy. They sent this policy in the form of a long. legalistically worded statement to all ATA members about a month ago, including to myself.

    It does not affect me personally, I don’t care what they say, I intend to take advantage of the freedoms afforded to me as a US citizen by the First Amendment. And I don’t really need the ATA for anything as I mostly work for direct clients and ATA does nothing to promote outreach of translators to direct clients, its activities and policies are basically oriented only towards agencies.

    But this official policy has made many ATA members so mad that they are publicly wondering whether it makes sense to still be members of an organization that wants to treat translators in this manner.

    At least that was what several people told me in online discussions.

    Like

  20. Stephen,

    I’m not a member of the ATA, but I am very interested in all of this.

    Could you send me the ATA statement in private? Or is there some ban about this too?

    Charles

    Like

  21. No need to send it in private, Charles, as the policy is published on ATA website, see link below.

    It is so long that most people will probably not read all of it and instead just conclude that they should never, ever, talk about rates because it represents some kind of a crime punishable by 20 years of prison or something.

    http://www.atanet.org/governance/governance_policystatement.php

    Like

  22. Every time you attack ATA about their purportedly weak stance on limiting discussion of rates under the Sherman Antitrust Act, you speculate wildly (and inaccurately) about the potential legal implications, as well as accuse ATA of pernicious collusion with translation companies, even going so far as to accuse the companies of running, or at least overtly influencing, the Association.

    This is a bit like accusing the disadvantaged and minority communities in Mississippi of secretly running Congress and all of Wall Street.

    The reason this makes zero sense is because translation companies have no influence over ATA whatsoever — they cannot vote; they cannot hold office; they cannot direct the Board; they cannot set policy.

    They can’t even change the toilet paper.

    This is why historically there have been 5 separate efforts of companies to break away from ATA because of their total impotence within the Association, resulting, finally, in the successful foundation of the Association for Language Companies (https://www.alcus.org/) which actually DOES promote translation companies.

    With respect to ATA and the FTC, there are several historical aspects that are important to consider.

    First, here’s the case law as to how the Sherman Antitrust Act has actually been interpreted in contexts that relate to the case of ATA (for starters):

    “The informal, voluntary exchange of pricing information among association members may be inferred by the courts to be a concerted action—and an antitrust violation, even without an express agreement among the participants— if the exchange results in price stabilization. See U.S. v. Container Corporation of America et al. 393 U.S. 333 (1969).”

    “An association may be held liable for members’ activities at an association function or elsewhere. See FTC v. Superior Court Trial Lawyers Association, et al., 493 U.S. 411 (1990).”

    “Actions by an association member or officer that an outsider could assume were authorized by the association may be interpreted by the courts to be an act of the association, for which the association would bear legal responsibility. See American Society of Mechanical Engineers, Inc. v. Hydrolevel Corp., 456 U.S. 556 (1982).”

    No matter how innocent a particular act may be, legal difficulties for ATA and for the individual or corporate ATA member can result if it leads others to believe that a violation has occurred.

    And there are serious consequences, both criminal and civil. Violations of the Sherman Antitrust Act are felonies that can subject an individual to fines of up to $350,000 and imprisonment for as long as three years.

    Corporate violators may be fined up to $10 million, and injunctions can be issued that would impair the corporation’s ability to compete effectively.

    Part II of this mess is always forgotten. Here is a quick tutorial.

    ATA got itself in this mess. Specifically, the Boards in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

    In an act of spectacular foolishness and ignorance of the Sherman Antitrust Act, the ATA Board, comprised largely of academics and intellectuals with almost no practical business experience, actually published RECOMMENDED RATES, a clear and unambiguous felony under U.S. federal anti-trust law, several decades ago.

    This is all the more dumbfounding in that the FTC had 3 active investigations underway at the time of associations in the language industry setting recommended rates.

    When it was brought to the attention of the ATA Board of that day that they could, you know, go to jail for a few decades, they promptly shit themselves, and as fast as a flash drew up restrictions EVEN MORE RESTRICTIVE THAN FEDERAL LAW as a way of protecting their asses.

    This resulted in the FTC agreeing to a Consent Decree, which bars ATA members from even discussing rates in any context, even among individuals, at any ATA event, ever.

    The extremely restrictive wording was proposed by ATA ITSELF. Blaming this on the U.S. federal government makes no sense.

    ATA broke the law, and in a furious attempt at back-pedaling and ass-covering, agreed to zip their mouths and the mouths of their members forever on the subject of rates.

    They agreed to proactively zip the mouths of all their members in the future, and into perpetuity. All to save their own butts. (!!)

    It’s important that Boards be held accountable for their actions. Certainly in this case the historical remoteness of these actions have fallen out of the dialogue, and ATA is in no hurry to explain that they openly and flagrantly committed a felony in total ignorance.

    The current environment is the result of actions taken in sheer ignorance several decades ago.

    I would comment more about the Slator piece, which contained more errors and inaccuracies and false assumptions and hilariously inane conclusions about the GSA Federal Schedule than a Scientologist’s treatise on their spectacular history of ethical behavior and genuine service to humanity.

    It is hoped that Slator will publish a piece that points out these dozen or so fundamental errors. The jury is still out on whether that will happen.

    In the meantime, as any GSA Schedule holder will tell you, it takes about 2 years to untangle the underlying regulations that mandate all the aspects omitted from quotes, as well as how pricing is actually reflected on several different levels. If you don’t read those regulations, the numbers are meaningless, and in fact wildly misleading as indicators of any kind of pricing practice.

    Like

    • It’s so long, Kevin, that I am not going to read it.

      So sorry.

      Like

  23. There is so much history on this particular subject that what I wrote was the most succinct version I could muster, lest I leave something out.

    It does have the virtue — if you want to call it that — of covering all the bases.

    I’m pretty sure your blog posts are consistently much longer than this comment.

    So length alone would seem to be an unlikely dissuading factor.

    At the very least the content is up here for the record so people can know what really happened between ATA and the FTC as well as how the power structures line up in and around ATA.

    Like

  24. “The reason this makes zero sense is because translation companies have no influence over ATA whatsoever — they cannot vote; they cannot hold office; they cannot direct the Board; they cannot set policy.”

    Right. And the billions of dollars that the 0.1 percenters are giving to our politicians are generously given to them by rich people who just want to be nice, and who have no influence over the way these politicians vote whatsoever either.

    You don’t have to be a genius to understand that both statements above are clearly false. You just have to know a thing or two about ATA.The latest ATA gag order on discussion of rates is only another piece of evidence that proves to translators who are capable of independent thinking who has the real power in the ATA.

    That is why the rest of your comment is likely to be filled with things that are not exactly true either, and why I wonder whether it is worth reading. Probably not, but I leave the comment here in case other people want to read it.

    Like

    • Hi Steve, as usually I’m late to the party. But having now scrolled through your blog and the comments here, I do have to agree with Kevin: without the background and actual facts, a lot of the exchanges about “right to free speech” and the like are inaccurate. They don’t move the discussion forward.
      In fact it’s interesting to reflect on the extent to which commentators spiralling off into rants that are disconnected with reality serves the very interests you criticize so energetically. Note that I write that despite having enjoyed our chats (and buying a bottle of Becherovka at the airport).

      Like

      • Thanks for your comment, Chris.

        I don’t think that you need a lot of background information to understand that ATA’s gag order on discussing rates is wrong on so many levels, some of which I and other commenters try to explain in our comments, especially since the background information is intentionally misinterpreted and manipulated to achieve a specific purpose.

        But we can disagree about this issue while carrying on a factual and civilized conversation, I hope, which is not something that is generally applicable to everybody.

        On another topic: I am so glad that you bought a bottle of Becherovka! I can’t buy it in this country, nobody carries it, you would have to special-order it, which makes it very expensive.

        The more people insist on the right to drink Becherovka in any country (I understand it is widely sold in Western Europe, but not in US), the sooner it will be available at my local supermarket.

        It is kind of like right to free speech: the more people insist on it, the sooner it becomes reality.

        Like

  25. Well, Steve, while I agree with you that the Citizens United vs. FEC Supreme Court ruling was ridiculous and should be overturned, so far in this presidential campaign, all those tens of millions of dollars from the “1%” have been wasted on the losing candidates on the Republican side.

    In fact, the more Super Pac money donated, the faster the candidate got bludgeoned to death. Tens of millions of dollars totally wasted.

    The presumptive nominee on the Republican side is self-financing his campaign and has refused all Super PAC money.

    Meanwhile, on the Democratic side, the presumptive nominee just barely prevailed over an outsider who famously raised millions from “ordinary citizens” each contributing $27.

    The lesson here is that big money doesn’t always win.

    Also, there is value in actually reading balance sheets.

    With respect to ATA and balance sheets, the vast majority of its operating budget comes from two sources: 1) Membership dues and 2) the national conference, which is from fees charged to members and other individuals.

    So there is no question that it’s individual translators who not only set policy, but they pay for everything, too.

    The ads you see in the Chronicle barely offset 10% of the cost of just producing the printed version. So while I admit that you see those ads a lot, they are not making much of a dent in even the cost of one single product within ATA itself.

    Having been the National Media Spokesman for ATA for 10 years, I was in the position of having to research, study and learn a ton of information about the operations, history, finances, legal position, etc. in order to speak on behalf of the president to the national press in an authoritative and well-informed manner.

    This inevitably means that when I write out long comments as above, they are comprehensive, as they are drawing on over a decade of experience doing the actual work of investigating, evaluating and engaging with the national press.

    It was an era where ATA appeared on the front page of the Los Angeles Times. You really don’t want to screw that up.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Like

  27. Steve, you want to pull a bait-and-switch and talk about national politics.

    The issue is not national politics.

    The issue you keep harping on is ATA.

    ATA is not national politics, as badly as you want to try to change the subject to national politics.

    I’ve stated the case on ATA above quite succinctly.

    In every single way — voting power, policy and MONEY — ATA is run completely by translators. This is a fact. It’s clearly reflected in both the budget and the balance sheet.

    Companies have no influence whatsoever. Not voting power. Not ability to hold office. NOT EVEN MONEY.

    Companies contribute a measly 10% of the cost of just the print edition of the Chronicle — just one single ATA activity — and then contribute about 8% of the cost of certain events by sponsorship at the national conference.

    This is dwarfed by the 90% of the Chronicle paid by members’ dues and 92% of fees at the conference paid by translator-members.

    ATA Translator-members: contribute 90 – 92% of total revenue via dues and conference fees, as well as certification exam fees.

    ATA Translator-members are the only ones who can serve on the Board or hold any Chairperson positions, or even the senior positions of ATA local groups.

    ATA Translator-members also control all policy, decisions, direction and strategic planning.

    Translation companies/agencies are blocked from holding office; blocked from voting status; blocked from doing anything other than throwing a few pennies in the pot.

    If they disappeared tomorrow, ATA wouldn’t even feel the financial hit.

    They would even know they disappeared.

    The translation companies are all standing outside in the rain with their noses pressed up against the window, with no influence whatsoever with ATA.

    That’s why they have their own organization. Actually, they have more than one, since both ALC and GALA serve the interests of translation organizations. They are run by translation companies.

    But not ATA.

    Liked by 1 person

    • In view of the above comments, I can’t help but wonder why translation companies would want to be members of the ATA…….
      Keeping an eye on the kids perhaps 🙂

      Like

      • Keeping an eye on the kids is a very good reason for what the ATA calls “stakeholders” (translation agencies, NSA, and other non-translating bodies) to want to be ATA members. That this has a chilling effect on the ATA is very apparent from the dearth of issues allowed to be discussed in the ATA Chronicle. The issues that I try to mention on my silly blog are virtually never discussed in the ATA Chronicle. Another important purpose of agencies’ membership in the ATA is to make sure that the snotty, stupid kids are not allowed to even complain about the low, falling rates that agencies try to pay to translators these days. ATA’s latest policy on rates shows clearly the ATA does a very good job in this respect as well.

        Like

    • Yes, I think it would be a good idea to get back to the issue at hand, i.e. the ATA’s general (and far too general in my opinion) policy about talking about translation prices.

      Kevin, although you are no doubt knowledgeable about the history of the ATA’s antitrust woes and provide a good explanation of why it may have adopted such a restrictive position on discussing rates, I think you are missing the main point, which is that the ATA still has no right to try to prevent its members from talking about translation prices, provided that they do not express themselves on behalf of the ATA, cannot be considered to represent the ATA, do not express themselves at an event organized by the ATA or use a means of communication over which the ATA has control.

      The ATA cannot be held responsible for the actions of its members that are beyond its control. This is why the following ATA policy statements make sense and are justified in my opinion:

      “Officers, directors, and members should not make any representations, publicly or privately, that appear to represent an official policy or position of ATA without the express authorization of the ATA Board of Directors. The U.S. Supreme Court has determined that recommendations or exhortations in antitrust areas by individuals who might appear to represent ATA in some capacity can likewise jeopardize ATA, so those in positions of responsibility for the ATA must be especially cautious.”

      “A member’s conduct in connection with all ATA meetings and events must comply with the antitrust laws.”

      “If the conversation among competitors at an ATA meeting turns to antitrust-sensitive issues, participants should discontinue the conversation until legal advice is obtained, or else leave the meeting immediately.”

      However, all other talk about what ATA members can or cannot do in respect of talking about prices, or even coming to agreements on prices for that matter, and over which the ATA has no means of control is not its concern.

      If an ATA member, acting independently of the ATA, gets into trouble with the FTC then that is that member’s problem, although I do think this fear is highly exaggerated.

      Like

  28. It’s mostly recruiting. Plus, tools companies are always pushing their technology on the target audience…

    Like

  29. Charles, here is the case law in the US on the topic as it applies to ATA:

    1. “The informal, voluntary exchange of pricing information among association members may be inferred by the courts to be a concerted action—and an antitrust violation, even without an express agreement among the participants— if the exchange results in price stabilization. See U.S. v. Container Corporation of America et al. 393 U.S. 333 (1969).”

    Note that this makes no reference to prices having to be at an association event. Any ATA members who have such a discussion with such an outcome are at risk of a violation of the law

    “An association may be held liable for members’ activities at an association function or elsewhere. See FTC v. Superior Court Trial Lawyers Association, et al., 493 U.S. 411 (1990).”

    This one does cite “at an association function” but also note it also states “or elsewhere.” So, again, it’s not true ATA does not have the right to exhort its members to not discuss rates away from ATA events. It’s actually in its best interests and the best interests of its members to prevent them from inadvertently committing a felony.

    “Actions by an association member or officer that an outsider could assume were authorized by the association may be interpreted by the courts to be an act of the association, for which the association would bear legal responsibility. See American Society of Mechanical Engineers, Inc. v. Hydrolevel Corp., 456 U.S. 556 (1982).”

    This is the only case where it makes references to an action “authorized by the association.” But under the two prior citations, members could be held liable for commission of a felony.

    To follow up on why companies join ATA — and without relying on Steve’s really puzzling, combative and not very helpful or accurate comments, such as assuming companies think of ATA translator-members as “stupid, snotty kids,” there are certainly valid reasons:

    1. Many of the most visible companies are tools companies like SDL and other software vendors of CAT tools. Their target sales audience is translators, so they attend as a way to drive sales.

    2. Most translation companies engage in heavy recruiting during the conference, which is a good thing as long as (in my view) the companies are reliable, reputable, add value and pay good rates.

    3. Not all companies are created equal. There are a lot of business relationships formed within ATA between single-language vendors and multiple-language vendors, especially in the languages of lesser diffusion. In such cases, they are simply pursuing business activities in their best interests.

    Liked by 1 person

  30. Kevin,

    I had noted your references in your previous message to U.S. antitrust case law as you believe it applies to the ATA and its members. I didn’t address them because I don’t think these arguments are relevant, but maybe they are worth looking into after all.

    First of all, regarding U.S. v. Container Corporation of America et al. 393 U.S. 333 (1969), other than on this blog, I can’t find any example on the Internet of the sentence you quoted concerning the “exchange of pricing information among association members”. Where did you find this?

    But anyway, my main point here is that no trade association was involved in this case. The defendants were the Container Corporation of America and other manufacturers of corrugated containers in the southeastern United States. And none of the literature I have found on this case refers to any association, even in the broadest possible meaning of the term. Not only does this case not involve a trade association, like the ATA, other parallels between the exchange of information and possible antitrust violations by ATA members are also fallacious.

    To begin with, the “exchange of information” in this case involved just that — one party giving pricing information to another party in exchange for information about the latter’s prices. It’s not a question of simply providing information, which for example can be done openly on a website, but of exchanging specific information for other specific information. In other words, there has to be a true exchange and reciprocity for an agreement to be inferred, as it was in the case of U.S. v. Container Corporation of America et al.

    Secondly, the economic factors in this case also make it completely irrelevant. The 18 defendants in U.S. v. Container Corporation of America et al were all companies and manufacturers and “their aggregate shipments of corrugated containers from plants in the Southeastern United States represented approximately ninety per cent (90%) of total shipments of corrugated containers from all plants in the Southeastern United States”. So its certainly plausible that their exchange of information could have an impact on market prices.

    In a market as global and fragmented as translation, can it reasonably be claimed that when individual translators talk about prices or even exchange pricing information between them this can have any material impact on market prices? Particularly when we consider that these translators would have to translate to and from the same languages to be true competitors.

    Below are some excerpts from a document I found on the Cornell University Law School’s website that shed some light on U.S. v. Container Corporation et al.

    “Here all that was present was a request by each defendant of its competitor for information as to the most recent price charged or quoted, whenever it needed such information and whenever it was not available from another source. Each defendant on receiving that request usually furnished the data with the expectation that it would be furnished reciprocal information when it wanted it. 2 That concerted action is of course sufficient to establish the combination or conspiracy, the initial ingredient of a violation of § 1 of the Sherman Act.”

    “Price information exchanged in some markets may have no effect on a truly competitive price. But the corrugated container industry is dominated by relatively few sellers.”

    Furthermore, any agreement on pricing collusion would generally have to be inferred from the observation of actual prices in the market using statistical assessment. In the case of U.S. v. Container Corporation of America prices that had been steadily decreasing over a long period were seen to have stabilized. Once again, given the highly fragmented and global nature of the translation market, it stretches the imagination to think that a statistical anomaly in translation prices in a market as large as the United States could possibly be traced back to the action of any translation association or even group of translation companies, not to mention individual translators. Moreover, the expense of such statistical studies (not to mention the expense of antitrust litigation) is considerable and would only be warranted if it can be “proven”, using statistics and econometrics, that anti-competitive behavior cost someone or some group of people a lot of money.

    Regarding the second case you refer to Kevin — FTC v. Superior Court Trial Lawyers Association, et al., 493 U.S. 411 (1990) — here is the situation (source http://antitru.st/sctla/).

    “A group of lawyers in private practice who regularly acted as court-appointed counsel for indigent defendants in District of Columbia criminal cases agreed at a meeting of the Superior Court Trial Lawyers Association (SCTLA) to stop providing such representation until the District increased group members’ compensation. The boycott had a severe impact on the District’s criminal justice system, and the District government capitulated to the lawyers’ demands. After the lawyers returned to work, petitioner Federal Trade Commission (FTC) filed a complaint against SCTLA and four of its officers (respondents), alleging that they had entered into a conspiracy to fix prices and to conduct a boycott that constituted unfair methods of competition in violation of § 5 of the FTC Act.”

    Once again, I can’t find any other instance on the Internet of your quote that “An association may be held liable for members’ activities at an association function or elsewhere…”

    I agree that the place where certain actions are performed is not necessarily important. However, your statement/quote implies that an association can be held liable for all of the activities of its members. That is simply not true. Some activities can be sanctioned under antitrust law and some cannot. In this case, the lawyers agreed to a boycott that clearly increased costs for the District of Columbia criminal justice system. Whether they did this at an association meeting or elsewhere is unimportant. Moreover, a secret agreement could easily be inferred from a boycott.

    It should be noted that even though the members of the Superior Court Trial Lawyers Association were forced to accept price erosion, they defended the great majority of the indigent criminal defendants and therefore “enjoyed” a quasi-monopoly. The District of Columbia criminal courts were obviously affected by the boycott since they had no other choice but to deal with these lawyers. As in the previous case, the economic factors in this one are completely different from those found in the translation market.

    Regarding your last example — American Society of Mechanical Engineers, Inc. v. Hydrolevel Corp., 456 U.S. 556 (1982) — you claim that “Actions by an association member or officer that an outsider could assume were authorized by the association may be interpreted by the courts to be an act of the association, for which the association would bear legal responsibility.”

    There is clearly confusion here between the meaning of “member” and “agent”. Here is what Wikipedia has to say about this case:

    “In this case, the U.S. Supreme Court held an association liable when its agents appeared to be acting under the authority of the association. Such action is called apparent authority. The court determined that a non-profit association is liable when it fails to prevent antitrust violation through the misuse of the association’s reputation by its agents (including lower level staff and unpaid volunteers).[2]” (the underlining is mine)

    Unless an ATA member is an officer or employee of the ATA or is authorized to do work for it in some other capacity he or she cannot be considered to be its agent.

    The key issue in this case is the liability of association for the actions of agents who act under “apparent authority”. It has in fact little to do with the Sherman Act and nothing at all to do with pricing information.

    In conclusion, I would be very interested if someone could tell me whether or not anyone has ever been prosecuted under U.S. antitrust law for something they have done in a purely individual capacity, i.e. not on behalf of a company, association, NPO, etc. as its employee, agent, volunteer or whatever.

    Charles

    Liked by 1 person

  31. Charles, thanks for your reply.

    The case law I cited was deemed relevant to associations and has been interpreted as such by counsel and judges ruling on related cases.

    In this instance, an attorney specializing in anti-trust and court rulings in that area concluded that all three cases I cited to be applicable to the case of ATA after a review of ATA’s publication of “recommended rates” and the contents of the consent decree ATA signed to avoid being prosecuted.

    Anti-trust is an especially tricky area of the law, and it requires not only an attorney, but one who is expert in that field.

    The list is actually longer — I selected these as they were identified by counsel as most pertinent to ATA’s case.

    The consent decree ATA signed several decades ago does in fact cite the Sherman Antitrust Act. It was the prevailing law under which three language associations were under investigating during the same period for price-fixing simply through the publication of “recommended rates.”

    So this has already happened. It’s an unfortunate historical reality, and I am still shocked how far out on the limb the Boards of that day went to protect themselves at the cost of zipping the lips of future members, in perpetuity.

    I can’t speak to whether individuals, acting alone, and not members of ATA, have ever been prosecuted (I agree with you that this is exceedingly unlikely), but the FTC has certainly gone after at least three associations in the language industry under the Sherman Antitrust Act for “price-fixing” simply through the publication of “recommended rates.”

    Keep in mind that ATA consented to MORE RESTRICTIVE provisions in the Consent Decree they signed with the FTC than were prescribed by law.

    So when speaking of the ATA case, there is that much lower bar that would trigger an investigation.

    And so under the consent decree, even speaking about rates in ANY capacity, even a lowly member, 🙂 would be deemed to be a violation.

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  32. “And so under the consent decree, even speaking about rates in ANY capacity, even a lowly member,:) would be deemed to be a violation.”

    Well then, the obvious and safest solution for those who value democratic principles such as freedom of speech, and the First Amendment to the US Constitution in particular, is as follows:

    1. If you already are an ATA member, quit the association to regain your freedoms.

    2. If you are not an ATA member, do not join so as to remain a free person.

    Translators who are not ATA members can freely speak about their profession, including about rates and fees.

    Unless ATA revises its gag order on rates (thank you for defining it so clearly above, Kevin), it is not likely that I will renew my membership next year.

    After all, I emigrated 34 years ago from a country run by a totalitarian regime to United States to be able to enjoy the protections afforded (at least on paper) to all Americans.

    Like

  33. That would certainly solve the problem. 🙂

    Those few people that actually understand the scope of the proscription among the general membership have either already quit, or are contemplating it (hence the lower membership levels), as you are now.

    I understand that a few are hesitating because they don’t want to give up their certification, which really should have been decoupled from membership over 12 years ago when it was first recommended by an outside consulting firm that they do precisely that.

    The fear is that it would result in a flood of people leaving ATA, so the Board has sat on it silently.

    I quit ATA myself last year after throwing up my hands for the 437th time trying and failing to spoon-feed them on how to set up a proper media and PR program after all of us experienced people exited the stage.

    I’d personally worked 20 – 40 hours a week promoting ATA, its members and driving clients to the online database for a decade, and a couple dozen equally committed people were thoroughly and collectively exhausted.

    Nothing I said worked. The Board fumbled, changed their minds or simply remained totally silent. Meanwhile, the constantly shifting PR Chairpersons who did nothing — I think they are on their fourth one right now — shrugged their shoulders when nothing got done because there were no consequences for doing nothing.

    We’ll, they did a FEW things, but they were shockingly stupid.

    They shut down the Speakers’ Bureau initiative. They started and stopped half a dozen media attempts. Their National Media Spokesman last year was quoted in The Economist endorsing MT, saying professional translators now respect it.

    He claimed he was misquoted, but he was not. I’d been in that chair a full decade, spoken to hundreds of reporters, editors, producers and on-air talent, and NONE of them had ever blatantly misquoted me like that. They are trained not to do that. Plus, that individual had a record for saying the wrong thing.

    They just publicly shot themselves in the foot. And it’s out there now for everybody to see.

    The one decision they DID make was to hire a consultant to advise them on their message, and after spending over $10,000 of members’ dues on that fiasco, the consultant told them that the message we had developed a decade earlier was the one they should use.

    They did manage to go to the Guadalajara Book Fair, and screamed to the rafters about how great a historic PR victory that was.

    A book fair. In Mexico.

    ATA was once the envy of the AMA and every professional association in Washington, which sort of stood back in wonder as translators overwhelmed the media — there were several years we got better and more consistent national press on CNN, BBC, NPR, MSNBC and even CBS and all the major newspapers than the organization representing PHYSICIANS.

    We were also successful in raising rates on specific federal government contracts and setting up meetings that resulted in a huge number of translators being hired into the federal government in the secure sector at well over 100K a year.

    The online database lit up like a Christmas tree as it was mentioned and printed in every interview. It also drove membership, and the absence of millions of people seeing the name ATA and its website address greatly diminished both client traffic and new member traffic when the program went away.

    The central problem is the fact that there is zero accountability on the Board. They are allowed to pick and choose what they cover, ignore what they have chosen not to cover, coronate rather than elect the president (since there is only one candidate, Soviet style), and allow the president to control all the meetings. This started in 2012, leading to my resignation as National Media Spokesman.

    It wasn’t always this way. Hell, it wasn’t even this way in the entire period between 2001 and 2012. But it sort of snapped back to Bolshevik-style non-accountability and election practices in 2012, and it was then that I knew that there was a reason membership had stagnated and would not recover. It peaked at just over 11,000 in 2009 after a decade of consistent increases, only to stagnate and never exceed that number again.

    It’s actually a terrible and tragic waste. All that media attention generated terrific visibility and benefits, but once you kill it and refuse to seriously address it as a priority — despite all the Board candidates trying to out-PR each other in their election speeches in 2014 — the minute the elections were over, the whole media and PR program got shoved to the bottom of the pile.

    Every time they tell you the 1 thing they’ve accomplished, trust me, there are 15 things they’ve either said “no” to, or have decided to sidestep as not a priority (despite it being an overwhelming priority for the members). The reason I know this is that they later, quietly, explain why it was better not to follow up in these areas.

    If it were a company, activist shareholders would have booted the entire Board and replaced them with people who have very serious Fortune 500 business and legal experience. Because if it were a profit-making entity, their stock would either have been de-listed, or demoted to the pink sheets. No sane investor is going to take losses like that.

    It’s a terrible tragedy and one that could have been avoided by recruiting very serious and accomplished translators in large numbers to actually run the association.

    ATA has seen its better days pass it by. Again, a tragedy.

    I’ve moved on to engaging directly with people in DC who are decision-makers on major federal contracts, and recently won a terrific decision where the federal government will now disallow bidders who bid TOO LOW on the grounds that excessively low bids are likely to impact quality.

    This has already changed the landscape and resulted in translators, today, being paid more and working under far better conditions.

    I’m also working directly with policy planning staff on the federal level to see that this practice be propagated to state and local jurisdictions.

    There’s lots of good work out there to be done. I’m excited about it and really looking forward to doing it. It just can’t be done under the aegis of ATA anymore.

    Like

    • Kevin, thank you for your detailed and enlightening comment on the inner workings of the ATA. Such boneheadness would explain the association’s silly and misguided ban on talking about prices.

      Yet despite the opinion of the ATA’s legal expert on antitrust law and despite the FTC’s consent order, I am still convinced that the ATA does not have the right to prevent its members from expressing their opinions on translation prices and pricing practices, unless these members happen to be agents of the ATA, are expressing themselves at an ATA sponsored event, or on some ATA-controlled medium.

      Lawyers aren’t infallible and may sometimes be disingenuous. Their interpretations of the law may be wrong or biased just to stay on the safe side and protect themselves and their client. As in poker, bluffing can be part of the game.

      The ATA National Media Spokesman’s endorsement of machine translation is scandalous. I find it as shocking as when a former ATA president stated publically that she was able to translate 10,000 words in one day thanks to Trados ! Which brings us to the subject of tool vendors also being members of the ATA.

      But I’ll leave that topic for another day. Thanks to everyone for a very interesting discussion.

      Charles

      Liked by 1 person

      • It so happens, by a pure coincidence, that the former ATA president (can’t think of her name now) who stated in an article printed in the ATA Chronicle that she was able to translate more than 10,000 words in a few hours, (I forgot how many hours she said it took her, but it was not that many hours), is also a certified Trados trainer giving paid seminars on how to use this precious tool.I agree with Chris that there is a cultural difference between the Anglo-American scene and the rest of the world: namely, the Anglo-American scene is noticeably more corrupt.

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  34. “Their National Media Spokesman last year was quoted in The Economist endorsing MT, saying professional translators now respect it.”

    Ha, ha, ha

    I actually read your entire response this time, I was laughing, and I had to agree with everything you said, except for one thing:

    I wouldn’t knock Quadalajara! It’s the place to be if you translate Spanish, the Silicon Valley of Mexico!

    A friend of mine lives there as an expat, and she loves it, loves, loves it.

    Like

  35. BTW, when it comes to anti-trust law breaches, I would have thought that the ATA is but a minnow swimming among an ocean full of sharks. So I wonder how the activities of the ATA were brought to the attention of the FTC.
    I hope it was not those ‘friendly outsiders’ with their noses pressed to the window looking in 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  36. Remember Occam’s Razor, cui bono, etc? Who profits from this gag order? The agencies, of course.

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  37. Steve,

    This is getting away from the original topic, but who cares.

    You wrote that “the Anglo-American scene is noticeably more corrupt”

    As someone who was born, raised and educated in the United States, yet who has been living in France for many years, like you, I also have an outsider’s perspective and I can only agree with your statement.

    Not so much because I think that the U.S. is any more ‘corrupt’ than other countries, but rather because what a rational human being would normally consider to be ‘corruption’ is much more noticeable in the United States, particularly from an outsider’s perspective.

    This ‘corruption’ has simply become an open and transparent part of U.S. culture. What would normally be considered, in other countries, to be a conflict of interest, for example, has become just “business as usual” in the United States. You and I consider such things to be ‘noticeable’, yet others don’t even see them.

    From my perspective, here across the Atlantic, I have seen the Darwinian “greed is good”, “government is bad” mentality take root and give bloom to its finest flower: Donald Trump.

    But Donald Trump is beyond any coherent ideology that I know of. Who knows where this might go?

    I feel like a rat, having left a ship.

    Charles

    Like

  38. I will gladly leave the subject too and talk about US politics instead for a while.

    Here is my take on the election circus in this country:

    To me Trump a very curious case of too many contradictions to count.

    He is against raising minimum wage, but for a Single Payer Healthcare System, just like what people living in any civilized country have had for decades, including English speaking countries like Canada, Australia and UK.

    He is against “stupid” wars (Obama’s term) abroad (as if there were any other wars in the last few decades), but he wants to give a huge tax break to rich people like himself (which most Trump voters don’t even know). Then their is the wall that Mexicans will pay for, the jobs that he will bring back home (without saying how), and many other things that make me scratch my head in disbelief.

    I don’t know what to think of him. I would never vote for him, but one thing is clear to me: what draws American voters to him is the fact that he is an authentic person who speaks his mind and does not give a damn about the current system. He seems to be willing to disrupt the status quo, which is what he has in common with Bernie whom I voted for in the primaries here in Virginia.

    Hillary, on the other hand, will say and do anything to get elected – except publish the content of her three short speeches to Wall Street, for which she was paid 660 thousand dollars.

    If she publishes those speeches and embraces most of the points in Bernie’s platform, I will consider voting her.

    But she can’t do that, which means that this will be another election that I will have to sit out.

    “I feel like a rat, having left a ship.”

    This I don’t get. It must be a reference to a sinking ship, but I am not sure what you mean by that.

    Like

  39. It pains me to say it, but yes, I was referring to a sinking ship, and mainly to the U.S. political system, which has been steadily deteriorating to the point of dysfunctionality.

    I could go into more detail but that would only be depressing.

    Have a good weekend,

    Charles.
    I.

    Like


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