Infosys executives on Tuesday were forced to address extremely uncomfortable issues about business visas in general, and the lawsuit filed by Infosys employee and whistleblower Jay Palmer in particular, as they faced financial analysts and the press in reporting the company's results for the quarter ending June 30.
In a press conference with several top execs at an Infosys campus recently renamed in honor of outgoing Infosys chairman Narayana Murthy in Mysore, India, outgoing Infosys CEO Kris Gopalakrishnan fielded the toughest questions. One of those questions was sparked by my July 8 post, "Infosys Tries to Show It's Cleaning up B1 Visa Act," in which I reported the existence of a document that Infosys recently prepared to provide guidelines for its employees on the use of B1 visas. Here's the question that a reporter posed to Gopalakrishnan:
Sir, we recently read a report saying that Infosys has revised its policy as far as people traveling to the U.S. is concerned. It's titled, "Business Visitor Travels to the U.S.: An Employee Guide." It's a 24-page document, we were told. Can you confirm that this has been done?
And here's Gopalakrishnan's response
We revise it periodically based on our current understanding, because we want to make sure of two things. One is we look at industry best practices and at our best practices. Second, we look at our understanding, and revise based on our understanding of the requirements. And this is something which we have done recently, yes.
I found it interesting that Gopalakrishnan, in acknowledging the document's existence, presented it as some sort of routine revision of something that already existed. That is inconsistent with the way the document was presented to employees internally. As I previously reported, an Infosys official positioned the document as the result of Infosys having "reviewed its current practices and established a comprehensive policy and procedures to which every employee MUST adhere." The official went on to inform employees of the need to "introduce the Corporate Policy of Business Visitor Travels to the U.S. and make you aware of the salient features of the policy." So it was clearly the establishment (as opposed to a revision) of a policy to which employees had to be introduced.
Gopalakrishnan was able to dodge a much easier generic request from another reporter for an update on the visa issues Infosys in facing in the United States, and when he expects them to be resolved:
There is nothing to update at this point. We are working with the authorities to resolve these issues, understand the nuances in usage of these visas, and working with the authorities. There is no other update I can provide at this point. Neither can I tell you when this will be behind us also, because again, that is a function of working with the authorities.
Another reporter drilled down a little, requesting a clarification about the distinction between Palmer's case and the investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice, and asking whether Palmer is still an Infosys employee. Gopalakrishnan's response:
So, Jay Palmer is still an employee. Yes, we have received a subpoena. We are working with the authorities in responding to the [subpoena]. I cannot give you any more details than what you yourself actually said. Because it is sub juris and I cannot give you any more details.
Another question focused on a project that Palmer had been working on that was canceled, and whether the cancellation was due to Palmer's allegations. Gopalakrishnan's response:
I cannot confirm or deny it other than to say he is an employee of Infosys. What other information that is available you also have that. That's all I can tell you.
A related question was difficult to make out, but it had to do with what Gopalakrishnan was hearing from his clients about "misuse or abuse of the H-1B." His response:
I can't be more specific than what I have been at this point. Because again, as you said, these are issues that need to be resolved. From a client perspective, if there are any questions placed, we are answering those questions to their satisfaction.
This question, on the other hand, came through loud and clear:
To what extent are the government of India and NASSCOM helping? [NASSCOM President] Som Mittal did say some [visa] guidelines are ambiguous and it's a matter of interpretation-they're having different definitions. These are gray areas, more to do with interpretation than violation, per se. What is the government doing, and what is the NASSCOM industry body doing to help out? Because Mr. Murthy said he was sad [see my June 12 post, "Infosys' Outgoing Chairman 'Sad' About Visa Fraud Investigation"].
Gopalakrishnan's hopeful response:
This is an industry issue. NASSCOM as well as the other industry associations are also working with industry to provide the proper support they can provide. I'm sure the government of India is also ready to support in any way they can in this regard.