Feds Offer Protection to Infosys Whistleblower Following Death Threats

Don Tennant

In the wake of a second death threat made against Infosys Technologies employee and whistleblower Jay Palmer, U.S. government authorities have offered to make security personnel available to provide protection against any effort to carry out the threats against Palmer and his family.

 

As I reported in my recent post, "Infosys Whistleblower Receives Another Death Threat," Palmer on April 21 received an email threat that read as follows (spelling as it appears in the email):

if you make cause for us to sent back to india we will destroy you and yuor family

The first threat had come in February, shortly after Palmer filed his lawsuit against Infosys, alleging that the company had engaged in visa and tax fraud. On Friday I spoke with Palmer's attorney, Kenny Mendelsohn, and he confirmed the feds' offer, which Palmer chose to decline:

When we got that latest threat, we reported it to them, and they offered to provide him with security and protection if he needed it. I think Jay felt he was OK without having to have round-the-clock protection. While this is a more serious threat, we just think nothing has been done to indicate he's in immediate [danger of] harm. He'd rather protect himself and his family than have U.S. marshals or undercover agents or something like that around his house, and disrupting his family life. This most recent threat said if these folks get deported, they're going to do something. So if that happens, we may take some additional steps at that time.

A second reason that Palmer declined the federal protection is that local law enforcement officials in Lowndes County, Ala., where Palmer lives, are already watching out for him. After Infosys refused Palmer's request to equip his home with a fence and security system, Mendelsohn told him to report the matter to the

county sheriff:

The county sheriff is aware of it, and he's keeping an eye on the location where Jay lives. In Jay's area, that's who's in charge of law enforcement. He lives in a small town that doesn't have a police department.

Palmer, meanwhile, is still languishing at home because Infosys won't assign him to another project. That has created serious financial hardship for him, because he doesn't accrue any bonus money while he's on the bench, and that's a significant portion of his income. According to Mendelsohn:

They don't know what to do with him. They're afraid to put him in another site because I think they're afraid they have some improper things going on at the other sites, and they know that he would disclose those - they understand that Jay would report any other crimes he sees. They've had more than enough time to find a place for somebody with his talents. There's work out there they can use him for. [Jay] knows of clients that are in dire need of his skills, where he could go in and be a big help. But they're not going to put him back to any work. They're just going to keep paying him to sit there, which is strange. They [at Infosys] claim that they're looking for [an assignment] for him, but I'm confident that they're not. We've reported that to the lawyer handling the whistleblower matter, because I consider this to be another form of retaliation and harassment. We've not been able to get a straight answer back from the independent counsel handling these whistleblower claims as to why he's not working.

In any case, that the federal authorities conducting the criminal investigation against Infosys take the threats against Palmer and his family seriously enough to make the protection offer speaks volumes about the seriousness of the investigation itself, and the determination of the U.S. government to hold Infosys and its leaders accountable for any illegal activity that may have occurred. With Palmer's civil case pending and the U.S. government's criminal investigation presenting the looming possibility that a criminal case will be filed as well, it's hard to imagine that Infosys' leaders aren't growing increasingly concerned.

 


As I reported in my recent post, "Advice for India: Screen Those Ex-Infosys Execs Well," Mohandas Pai, the former Infosys board member and head of human resources who abruptly resigned from the company last month, proclaimed that Infosys would "rigorously defend" itself against the allegations. Now Narayana Murthy, the outgoing chairman of Infosys, has addressed Palmer's case as well.

 

In an interview with India Knowledge@Wharton, a media outlet affiliated with the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, Murthy was asked about the allegations of visa misuse. This was his response:

That is under investigation right now. We have hired a well-known legal enterprise in the U.S. It is work in progress. We don't know the details and whether there is any issue at all. So at this point of time, I am not able to comment.

That dismissiveness - questioning "whether there is any issue at all" - was an intriguing way to respond. The vast amount of evidence that Palmer and Mendelsohn have accumulated to prove the fraud allegations in the civil case aside, the intensity of the U.S. government's criminal investigation and its preparedness to protect the whistleblower who brought it all to light could not have been lost on Murthy. The downplaying tactic, while routine, is inconsistent with a genuine eagerness to uncover the truth.

 

That's why I was so disturbed by another quote from Murthy, a response to a question posed to him earlier this year about the qualities needed to manage people, partners and customers. This is what he said:

In all these areas you need a sense of integrity. Integrity is about doing the right thing. It is about being fair to others, having the courage to tell others not to do wrong things. Integrity is about delivering on promise. It is also about being truthful. I believe integrity is one quality that is the foundation of all relationships whether it is your customer or partner. That said, it does not suffice if you are only an honest person. It is very important for honest people to condemn dishonest people publicly.

"It is about being fair to others, having the courage to tell others not to do wrong things." I have a feeling, Mr. Murthy, that those words are going to come back to haunt you.



Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
May 9, 2011 3:47 AM Justin Justin  says:

Sounds like a fiction!!!

Without a statement coming from police or some fedral agency no one can say that these threats are real or not.

I am not making a judgement: Maybe real or May be just a publicity gimmick, trying to provide juice to the story or get jury's sympathy... who knows?

I would rather leave it for jury to decide whats true and whats not. Instead of making judgements, media should report substantiated facts.

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May 10, 2011 10:20 AM su su  says: in response to Justin

I agree. This blogger Don always is sure about many news which only he is writing and everytime the source of such news is "I spoke to Palmer's attorney". Why should anyone has to belwive what you think and what Palmer's attorney is telling you? How is it wrong if a company is refusing to comment on a matter which is under investigation? In fact it is good that they are not hiring a cheap blogger to make personal comment and give judgement on an under-investigation matter.

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May 11, 2011 1:07 AM R. Lawson R. Lawson  says: in response to su

I just noticed this slander against Don - absolutely absurd.  I don't always agree with his views on particular issues but there is no reason in the world to question his integrity.  If Don, a journalist with years of experience and not just "another blogger" reports on what they attorney said you can trust that is what he said.

Finally, Don has been a supporter of the H-1b program (or at least the concept of it) and I think he still is to this day.  That's where we disagree.  Despite his support of the program he is also reporting on fraud that occurs, and any fair minded journalist would report both sides of the story.  Fraud is an ever-present side of this story and he is doing his job by reporting it. 

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May 11, 2011 1:17 AM Dolores Dolores  says: in response to su

Sounds like a fiction? Not to anybody who knows Indian companies. Ok you two shills, you can go collect your treat from your masters now.

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May 11, 2011 4:03 AM Su Su  says: in response to R. Lawson

That is what I also said and even pointed out that even Don is against visa frauds and not against the program in reply to someone who was abusing in general. Also I did not disrespect him in anyway and repeatedly saying we just don't have any concrete proof neither we are seeing such news anywhere else - so I'm just raising my doubts. Some people here are very sure without any doubt in their mind which comes from bias against something

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May 11, 2011 4:15 AM Su Su  says: in response to Dan T.

You do realize that without knowing anyone I'm not at all questioning anyone's integrity. However without knowing someone (unlike you) a doubt can come to my mind also when I don't see any such news anywhere else in media. I clearly mentioned that I'm not even sure whther Infosys is innocent or not. People has to understand at no point of time my intension is to question Don's integrity or capabilities. My only point was such news have no other source in entire media or internet. May be I'm getting misunderstood.

On a different note there are many readers of the blog who without knowing someone like Murthy, one of the founders of Infosys bad mouths him who probably won 20 times more awards than Don and respected world wide. Just go to Wiki and type NRN and you will find him in disamiguation list (see you don't have to type full name also).

Like you I'll also prefer to "slink back into lurker-mode now"

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May 11, 2011 9:23 AM Su Su  says: in response to Dolores

I don't think even Don has any problem blindly against just "Indian companies" or just "H1 visa holders"...do you Don? I always felt articles are about "H1 visa fraud" and not on entire H1 visa program. Then why some regular readers here just abuse "Indian companies" or "H1 visa holders" in general. What is exact point in all these blogs? People wants to stop H1 fraud or h1 program overall :D. If it is the second case then it is bigger battle and all the best for it whoever wants to fight that. If we are discussing frauds...then I just gave my personal opinion that comments here looked very much personal and lacking substance....  anyway if you think I'm following my master's order I can't help it.

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May 11, 2011 9:38 AM Dolores Dolores  says: in response to Su

Personal and lacking in subtance? Ooos: http://www.itbusinessedge.com/cm/blogs/tennant/current-former-infosys-workers-come-forward-in-visa-fraud-case/?cs=46895 and don't forget the lawsuit against TCS (Tata) - still going strong after all these years.

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May 11, 2011 10:33 AM Su Su  says: in response to Dolores

Isn't the source again "I spoke to Palmer's attorney"? Anyway I'm not saying that I don't believe it. It might be true also, but it is under investigation. The reports here looks little funny to me because you don't see any single such news from any other sources. I think this forum is about blogging or opinions so I take it that way. Writer has no credibility as renowned private investigator like Holmes that I have to believe his words. Just because I have doubts in my mind that doesn't mean I have any disrespect against Don, neither I'm saying "I'm sure Infosys is innocent". My point is we don't know what's going on.

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May 11, 2011 12:18 PM Dan T. Dan T.  says: in response to Su

Since there's no way he'd ever point this out himself: Don was awarded the Timothy H. White award for Editorial Integrity from American Business Media a couple years back. He has over two decades of IT journalism experience, AND he's working with a group of ex-CIA specialists in an endeavor to help detect deception.

Also, in my 26 years of knowing him, I've never, ever seen him lie, to anyone.

Not once.

Take that with a grain of salt if you like; there's no real way I can prove it to you. But I wanted to point it out anyway, if only for my own sense of satisfaction. The man's the most honorable person I've ever met, and agree or disagree with his views, it bugs the hell out of me when people accuse him of dishonesty.

I'll slink back into lurker-mode now.

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May 12, 2011 3:06 AM Justin Justin  says: in response to Su

Agree more than 100% with you Su.

No one is trying to question Don's integrity. He might be correct. He probably did talk to Palmer's attorney.

Talking specifically about Visa fraud and this case: Its under investigation.

So let it stay that way rather than giving biased/unsubstantiated opinion against anyone.

Infosys is a big multi-billion $ company and in no way will put its reputation at stake by giving such pity threats. Its not proven that Infosys has given these threats. Feds can easily trace a phone call/email. Let them do that and say its Infosys who gave the threat and then blog about it. Going by what attorney says then blogging and supporting that: I would say is not journalism in its true spirit!!

Its looks like some third party trying to get benefit out of this dispute.

Whatever the case may be: Murthy is much more distinguished and honored than Don. I can say with 100% surety Murthy and his wife (and "his" Infosys has done more for poor and underprivileged than anyone reading or responding to this blog)

So I would urge Don be a true journalist before posting such blogs:

http://www.itbusinessedge.com/cm/blogs/tennant/advice-for-india-screen-those-ex-infosys-execs-well/?cs=46773#cf

If at all there was a fraud under Murthy's watch, he would take full responsibility of it and bring the guilty to justice.

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May 17, 2011 4:14 AM Mark G. Mark G.  says:

We have many Infosys employees working for us. While they won't/can't say openly but they have admitted a lot of times in person how things work in Infosys. They have told us how they misuse B1 and L1 visas! There is definitely truth in this. While I don't know much about Murthy, but like all Infosys execs I have engaged with, he also seems to be down playing a fraud or potentially be involved in death threats to the whistle blower.

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