Narayana Murthy, the founder and outgoing chairman of Infosys Technologies, appears to be genuinely burdened by the ramifications of the visa fraud lawsuit brought against the company by Infosys employee and whistleblower Jay Palmer. Speaking on Saturday at his last shareholders meeting as chairman, he singled the case out as a source of sadness, and gave no indication that he believes there are no grounds for Palmer's allegations.
Murthy's reference to the case was particularly noteworthy in that he was compelled to mention it in what were relatively brief remarks to a global constituency as he was ending his 30-year career at Infosys. According to the Indian media outlet NDTV Profit, here's what he said:
It is not easy for me to deliver my last address at this forum. As I speak, a mosaic of images from the past whizz through my mind. As I leave the board, I feel sad that Infosys has been issued a subpoena by a grand jury in the US on the B1 issue. The issue will be decided on its merits in due course.
Murthy left it at that, and went on to speak of the need for Infosys to continue to "focus on embracing meritocracy, transparency and openness of discussions." I may be reading too much into it, but there seems to me to be at least a hint of contrition in Murthy's remarks. What he said is clearly a far cry from his comment on the case made in early May. As I reported in my post, "Feds Offer Protection to Infosys Whistleblower Following Death Threats," Murthy appeared at the time to question whether a problem even existed. When he 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.
Perhaps the investigation by the legal enterprise that Infosys hired yielded results that forced Murthy to be a little less cavalier. If so, it begs a key question: Did the investigation provide information about Infosys engaging in visa fraud that was news to Murthy, or information that demonstrated that U.S. authorities were sitting on evidence that suggested Infosys could no longer get away with the shenanigans that had become an institutionalized way of doing business?
It seems implausible that Murthy could have been unaware of Infosys' documented practice of using B1 visas to circumvent H-1B visa costs and restrictions. It seems far more likely that he would be very much in the loop on Infosys' business practices in a market that accounts for two-thirds of the company's revenue. So is Murthy saddened by the fact that his company is alleged to have engaged in visa fraud, or by the idea that it's finally being called to account for it?