What does it mean when a Japanese manager tells his subordinate to treat an official to “wakame (seaweed)”?
In cross border legal matters, whom you choose as your multilingual eDiscovery partner for analysis of evidence can make the difference between finding the smoking gun and missing it entirely.
Many people are under the misconception that choosing such a vendor is simply a matter of finding any attorney that speak the right language. This is akin to saying, “find me any attorney who ever tried a personal injury case, it doesn’t matter who.”
For example, a quick google search for “Japanese Document Reviewer” will reveal dozens of job posts sourcing candidates based on the qualification of “speaks Japanese” and “bar admittance.”
Where this attitude can get you in trouble is where evidence can be unexpectedly complicated. My friends, litigation is often complicated. Facts are not always clear. Add to this Japanese, well, it’s complicated.
Let’s return to the example at the top: What does it mean when a Japanese manager tells his subordinate to treat an official to “wakame (seaweed)”?
Say we’re dealing with an FCPA issue, a bribery investigation. You want to find any instance where inappropriate benefits were offered to entice government officials to do your client’s bidding.
If you hire a random “Joe” off the street who took Japanese in college, he might proudly tell you “Wakame” is a type of edible seaweed, so he is probably telling his subordinate to take the official to a restaurant that specializes in seaweed.
You might think to yourself, that sound reasonable, toss in a pile of mildly concerning relevant documents, and forget about it. You move on. This issue just flies below the radar and nobody flags it for further analysis.
What should you get when you hire a team of experienced Japanese speaking attorneys with years of insight analyzing Japanese electronic evidence and a deep cultural understanding of Japanese coupled with strong legal analysis?
Let me tell you…
Wakame (seaweed) can be a slang reference for a woman’s pubic hair. “Treat the official to wakame” may be saying in actuality, “treat the official to a prostitute.”
This is an actual example from a real-life investigation conducted by myself and my team. Further investigation uncovered disguised receipts from brothels and other types of inappropriate dealings. A risk management approach to foreign language document review would view many inadequacies in the prevailing model of non-English document review. Ensuring you have the right person managing the review and the appropriate controls in place to identify potential vulnerabilities is critical. This is the first step that any review is built upon.
Stay tuned for more multi-lingual CJK stories from the eDiscovery frontlines in a series I call “Rem’s World!”