As top executives at Infosys Technologies leave the company and begin other pursuits, their prospective employers would be well-advised to subject those executives to a very thorough pre-employment screening process. It just might prevent an embarrassingly awkward situation down the road.
As I noted in my recent post, "Infosys Is Becoming a Model of Non-transparency," Mohandas Pai, the former Infosys board member in charge of human resources, abruptly resigned from the company and expressed his concern about transparency in the CEO selection process. A couple of weeks later, Pai accepted an offer to co-chair a committee at Bangalore University that's charged with establishing a school of economics at the university.
The problem I have with Pai serving in such a role at a university is that I'm not sure what sort of example he would set for the students. When he became aware of the lawsuit that Infosys employee and whistleblower Jay Palmer filed against the company in the United States in February, alleging visa and tax fraud, this was Pai's immediate response, according to an Indian media outlet:
[We cannot react as] the matter is sub judice but we shall rigorously defend ourselves.
What's so troubling is that Pai's response should have been something along the lines of, "We take these allegations very seriously, and we will investigate them thoroughly." By instead proclaiming immediately after the suit was filed that Infosys will "rigorously defend" itself, Pai was conveying one of two messages: Either he was already familiar with Palmer's complaints but took no action to address them, or he was not familiar with the complaints and was going into defense mode without even investigating the allegations. In either case, it's essential to note that Pai did not deny the allegations - to be clear, stating that Infosys will "rigorously defend" itself is not a denial. In fact, wearing my other hat as a specialist in the field of deception detection, I should point out that failure to deny in this manner is a glaring behavioral indicator that the subject considers the allegations to be true.
Meanwhile, Narayana Murthy, the founder and outgoing chairman of Infosys, has said that he's open to the possibility of working for the Indian government. Asked by a reporter if he would be willing to take up a government post if it was offered, this was Murthy's response:
Of course, I will be willing to take it up. But the best thing would be if I get an opportunity to address the youngsters, to exhort them to [be] more disciplined, to have good work ethic, to work as a team, and to have aspirations, I would say that's the job I would enjoy most.
Whether Murthy ends up working in the Indian government or in a different capacity that enables him to influence India's youth, what needs to be considered are the age-old questions of what he knew and when he knew it, regarding the activities that led to Palmer's whistleblower complaint and ultimate lawsuit. In any case, what's inescapable is that any fraudulent activity that did occur, occurred under Murthy's watch.
It's especially important to consider at this point the U.S. government's ongoing criminal investigation of Infosys that was triggered by the Palmer case. If federal authorities file a criminal complaint against Infosys - and that prospect appears to be increasingly likely - which individuals will be listed as defendants? Might one be the individual in charge of Infosys' global human resources operations? Might another be the chairman of the board of directors that was ultimately responsible for all of Infosys' operations worldwide?
Any private- or public-sector organization in India or anywhere else that's considering employing Pai or Murthy in any capacity needs to make due diligence in the hiring process a top priority. The potential fallout from the civil case brought by Palmer could be damaging enough not only to the reputations of Murthy and Pai, but to the reputation of any organization that might employ them. If they were to eventually be named as defendants in a criminal case brought by the government of the United States, how might that reflect on any such organization?
As uncomfortable as that question may be to ask, the questions that any employer of these individuals might have to ask and answer at some point down the line would be doubly uncomfortable. A better case for rigorous pre-employment screening would be difficult to make.