Infosys Remains Comfortably Under U.S. Media Radar

Don Tennant

I have characterized the Infosys visa fraud case that I've been writing about for the past week as a "game changer," because at long last an employee has summoned the courage to blow the whistle on alleged abuse of the H-1B visa program from the inside. But as readers of this blog have suggested, if the game is indeed going to be changed, the U.S. media needs to get on the stick.

 

I was gratified to see on March 17 that my former colleagues at Computerworld are all over the story. In his must-read piece, reporter Patrick Thibodeau focused on how the case spotlights the growing use of B-1 visas by Indian companies to place workers in IT job functions in the United States. But the case still hasn't caught the attention of the rest of the U.S. media.

 

On March 12, when I spoke with Kenneth Mendelsohn, the attorney who filed the lawsuit on behalf of Infosys employee Jay Palmer, I raised the media coverage issue. I noted that the case had been widely reported in the Indian press, but that I was unable to find a single U.S. media outlet that had covered it. I asked him if he had any sense of why that was, and he seemed as perplexed as I was:

No, and it's kind of interesting. It made me wonder, too-I thought everybody would pick up on it really quick. It hit big early on in India and stuff like that, which kind of tickled me. I don't know why. But I'm starting to get more phone calls and e-mails from Americans-I have been contacted by some within the last week. It may be that it's going to start getting more notice. I have not done anything to promote it-I don't file lawsuits and hold press conferences. I don't shy away if the press calls, because I know they've got a job to do, too, and the only way people like you can do an accurate story is by having information. So I've always felt like I had a duty to cooperate to the extent I could. But I haven't issued any press releases or tried to get into the American papers, either. This all got picked up because of courthousenews.com, which I didn't even know about. I'd never heard of them before, but they apparently monitor court filings. The day after I filed it, they ran an article, pretty much extracting the language of the lawsuit. And that's when it started getting picked up. That was on a Friday morning, and by Saturday afternoon, if you Googled "Palmer" and "Infosys" you got 240,000 hits. It went crazy. I can't answer why the American media has not picked up on it more, but I have every reason to believe it's starting to.

Well, let's hope so. I also asked Mendelsohn if he was aware of any other complaints against Infosys that this case has spawned:

Not necessarily that this has spawned. I have heard of other cases against Infosys. I have had people contact me. But I can't say that they're directly related to this case. I think if you did a search on Infosys, you'd probably find a lot of lawsuits against them. I know they had some issues in the past with sexual harassment and other types of cases. But I don't know of anything filed that's directly related to a whistleblower-type claim about violating immigration law, cases like that.

Coincidentally, as my colleague Susan Hall has noted, Computerworld's Thibodeau also reported on March 17 that Infosys is being sued by a New Jersey man who's alleging that the company discriminates against older job applicants. According to the suit, which was filed late last month, Infosys posted job ads on Monster.com that specified "maximum experience" of 15 years in one case, and 25 years in another.

 

Interestingly enough, meanwhile, MSNBC.com carried an article about Infosys on March 18, but neither lawsuit was mentioned. The story, written by Motley Fool writer Seth Jayson, was headlined, "Are You Missing Something Easy at Infosys Technologies?" Here's an excerpt:

Margins matter. The more Infosys Technologies keeps of each buck it earns in revenue, the more money it has to invest in growth, fund new strategic plans, or (gasp!) distribute to shareholders. Healthy margins often separate pretenders from the best stocks in the market. That's why I check on my holdings' margins at least once a quarter. I'm looking for the absolute numbers, comparisons to sector peers and competitors, and any trend that may tell me how strong Infosys Technologies' competitive position could be. ... With recent TTM operating margins exceeding historical averages, Infosys Technologies looks like it is doing fine.

Perhaps MSNBC.com might want to delve into just why Infosys is "doing fine" in keeping so much of each buck in revenue. If one of Palmer's allegations in particular is true-that the company uses low-paid workers on B-1 visas to perform work at client sites, and charges those clients the rate for H-1B visa holders with specialized skills-that could explain a lot.

 

In any case, Infosys has so far managed to remain fairly safely under the U.S. media radar. It will be interesting to see how long the company will be able to maintain that relative comfort.



Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Mar 21, 2011 4:19 AM justin justin  says: in response to Doc Savage

May be because MSNBC (and other media companies) also outsource to Infosys and like.

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Mar 21, 2011 11:32 AM R. Lawson R. Lawson  says: in response to Warior

Well, this is one of the largest IT outsourcing companies in the world.  Of the abusers and violators of temporary immigrant labor laws, this is one of the top three companies I want to see made an example of.

The way companies change their behavior is they must be punished financially, and ideally a few executives go to jail.  If Infosys is forced to obey the law, they no longer get an unfair competitive advantage and less jobs go offshore.

Since the feds aren't reigning in Infosys, hopefully this private lawsuit has an impact.

I personally hope this makes Jay Palmer and Kenneth Mendelsohn rich and they get an award that is truly punishing to Infosys.  BTW guys, if that happens I can think of a few people who deserve a round of drinks  

If they can avoid arbitration and get a trial by jury, I think they are in very good shape. 

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Mar 21, 2011 12:08 PM Warior Warior  says:

Why Infosys ??? Why hang only Infosys ??? I am very sure there are a bunch more to come. Most of companies hire H-1B violate the law. Let get them all. Justice will be served. Don ! if you keep drilling these crooks I will never have anything against you and I will keep promise ..

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Mar 21, 2011 12:26 PM P Henry P Henry  says:

   It doesn't take a genius to realize why MSNBC stays away from stories involving the h-1b visa.  The MS stands for Microsoft who is the biggest American user of the program.  The powers that be at Microsoft probably don't want any light shone on their use of this visa.  Also, The NBC portion of MSNBC is trying their damndest to put the best face on this slave visa with the recent propanganda piece "Can America Keep Best, Brightest Immigrants?". 

   There comes a point Don where it stops being a crazy conspiracy theory and starts being a blatantly obvious fact.  Ask MSNBC why they don't cover these.  It will be hilarious when the "news" source comes back with a "no comment".

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Mar 21, 2011 12:52 PM Doc Savage Doc Savage  says:

Corruption within the ranks of corporate America rarely makes the news unless the media owners are far removed from it.

Fox only deals in corruption news when it is the government being scrutinized.

CNN, when they are trying to fill a spot between sensationalist BS

CNBC when the corruption supposedly robs the rich

Expose of corporate greed and corruption only makes news when the giant falls and makes its own noise.

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Mar 22, 2011 6:10 AM hoapres hoapres  says: in response to Warior

This sort of nonsense has been going on for decades.  No one takes ComputerWorld (if it ever did) in the tech world very seriously anymore.  If Don believes that any of this going to get exposed in a 60 minutes type expose then he is pretty naive.

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Mar 22, 2011 6:38 AM Don Tennant Don Tennant  says: in response to hoapres

This is not really directed to you, because you're going to believe whatever you want to believe regardless. But for anyone else who cares, I suggest you check out Dan Rather Reports tonight at 8 EST.

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Mar 22, 2011 7:23 AM hoapres hoapres  says: in response to Don Tennant

So what ??

I agree that it is great that some (albeit very late) publicity is finally getting out on this stuff.

Come on now.

Let's get real.

This stuff has been going on for decades and while it would be nice if things changed that doesn't seem likely.

Frankly, I doubt that you have any real IT experience.  People in IT knew that this stuff has been going on for decades and if any reporter wanted to find out about it could have done so quite easily.

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Mar 22, 2011 11:41 AM Warior Warior  says: in response to R. Lawson

@R. Lawson, I told you in the past the company I am dealing with only has some where around 3000 employees, they use B-1 visa like crazy. Infosys scam is the one of the tip of an iceberg. I am very sure there are a bunch more on the basket nobody care. This type of scam is typically killing American worker for good. I wish some how the government or some kind of organization establish some kind of website to report scams but at it is right now they are not existed...So sad ...

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Mar 23, 2011 3:17 AM IndianTechie IndianTechie  says:

Before programmers guild and alipac send their folks here to post hate comments...Palmer may have to prove that there was intent to abuse visa and it was systematic. Im sure all the he was vilified as a stupid american and for being a christian is dressing meant to generate some anger and sympathy. I frankly think he is going to loose because the hours put by a B1 employee coming to attend a meeting or discussion with client can still be billed to the client at 1,000$ / Hr if the client is willing to pay it. The state does not have a say in this. There is no statute that limits a foreign companies right to bill for their employees' hours and expenses to the client. The B1 visa cannot be used for work. This is going to be tough to prove. There is no USCIS limit on if a B1 visa holder can spend 8 Hrs at a work location or that they cannot visit the client location.

KJ

Infosys will furnish the total no of B1 visa holders, avg time spent in US and the fact that everyone of them returned within their I94 expiry. (6 months for business visas) It is going to be <5% of itz H1 visas. Avg time of stay is going to be 2 months. This will defeat the systematic abuse and intent to abuse argument.

MOst likely their legal dept already anticipated this and may have a defence prepared already. You are going to see this case decided in favor of Infosys.

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Mar 23, 2011 5:42 AM R. Lawson R. Lawson  says: in response to IndianTechie

"I frankly think he is going to loose because the hours put by a B1 employee coming to attend a meeting or discussion with client can still be billed to the client at 1,000$ / Hr if the client is willing to pay it. The state does not have a say in this. There is no statute that limits a foreign companies right to bill for their employees' hours and expenses to the client."

The B-1 visa law very explicitly does not allow labor for hire.  Billing for an employee's hours is by definition labor for hire.  If Infosys is reimbursing for expenses that are not within industry norms and are not itemized as an attempt to circumvent tax, immigration, wage, or other laws they are in serious trouble.  This isn't just violation of the law, it is fraud and conspiracy to commit fraud.

I suspect that some Infosys managers and executives need more than a corporate, civil, or immigration attorney.  They need a criminal defense lawyer because crimes like this are what we call felonies and carry prison time.  Intent will be easy to prove.

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Mar 23, 2011 5:53 AM Vincenzo Vincenzo  says: in response to Don Tennant

"I would also note, with zero exaggeration, that this person's grammar is much, much better than the grammar of several readers who contribute regularly on here and who identify themselves as Americans."

C'mon, Don.  Several times I've seen you bash someone who didn't have the best English grammar skills. And are you saying that those who "identify themselves as Americans" are all white, monolingual, English-speaking people??  Surely you must know that Americans come from all walks of life.

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Mar 23, 2011 5:57 AM Vincenzo Vincenzo  says: in response to Don Tennant

Oh, and thanks for blogging on this Infosys issue.

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Mar 23, 2011 6:27 AM Dolores Dolores  says: in response to IndianTechie

The real value in lawsuits like Palmer's and the age discrimination case is that they will provoke a crackdown on these programs and close the loopholes. That's what happened years ago when the Indian tech companies refused to stop abusing the L-1 program, and there was a crackdown. Just because you can quote a loophole doesn't make it right.

Besides, the unemployment crisis in America is indeed a crisis and to discover that wholesale theft of American career opportunities is happening on this scale will likely get a reaction that it never got when times were good for non-IT Americans. It's one thing to look the other way when America has lots of jobs and opportunities and when Americans who get one door slammed in their faces can simply go elsewhere. But that was then, this is now.

Now we need an audit of companies like Tata who set up American offices with the promise to hire Americans. Let me guess ....

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Mar 23, 2011 8:18 AM EngiNERD EngiNERD  says:

Dan Rather  Tonight  (www.hd.net)  had a big expose' on Infosys , the abuse of B1 Visas on Tuesday -  March 22.      Here's hoping the see the  transcript,  maybe  the video of the segment will be posted  soon. 

????  Will  other news outlets pick up on what Rather exposed? 

Will  Congress begin a congressional investigation of the administration of the various visa programs?

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Mar 23, 2011 8:45 AM Don Tennant Don Tennant  says: in response to Vincenzo

Vincenzo, you have never, ever seen me bash a reader, and I don't like the false accusation. The only times I have ever mentioned a reader's writing skills have been in response to a reader who blames foreigners for his inability to find a job, and does so with appalling writing skills that I suggest in my response could be a factor in the reader's difficulty in finding a job; or in response to a reader whose comment is so focused on conveying insults rather than a meaningful message that what is actually conveyed is almost incomprehensible. But my response is never presented in a way that bashes or insults the reader, no matter how insulting that reader might be toward me or toward others. It is always conveyed in a civil, dignified manner. If the reader in this case had made his point in an equally civil, dignified manner, rather than choosing to insult him with the demeaning remark, "I find it fascinating that a company would actually employ someone with the grammar skills of an eight year old," I would not have mentioned it.

And no, I am not saying that those who identify themselves as Americans are all white, monolingual, English-speaking people. I stand by my record of not only acknowledging the diversity of the American people, but promoting it. At the same time, I think we can agree that Indians are more likely than Americans to speak a language other than English, and my point was simply that it wouldn't have hurt to take that likelihood into account.

In any case, I trust you will be more careful in your choice of words in the future so as not to brand me or anyone else unjustly.

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Mar 23, 2011 8:46 AM Don Tennant Don Tennant  says: in response to Vincenzo

You're welcome.

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Mar 23, 2011 8:52 AM P Revere P Revere  says: in response to IndianTechie

@IndianTechie

   Are you employed?  I find it fascinating that a company would actually employ someone with the grammar skills of an eight year old.  I honestly can't follow your comment although it seems to be in favor of Infosys.  Big surprise there.  A beneficiary of the h-1b visa is in favor of the h-1b visa.  

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Mar 23, 2011 9:23 AM Don Tennant Don Tennant  says: in response to P Revere

I think it's only fair to consider that in addition to English, this person almost certainly speaks at least one other language, and English may not be his first language. I would also note, with zero exaggeration, that this person's grammar is much, much better than the grammar of several readers who contribute regularly on here and who identify themselves as Americans. I find it implausible that you wouldn't have noticed. If you're going to point the grammar finger, why not point it at them, too?

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Mar 23, 2011 10:11 AM checkthisout checkthisout  says: in response to Don Tennant

http://blogs.wsj.com/digits/2010/04/15/can-infosys-keep-workers-with-hefty-raises/tab/comments/

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Mar 23, 2011 10:28 AM Justin Justin  says: in response to Don Tennant

Discipline and ethics and being truthful etc etc all these virtures are a factor of how full your stomach is. Its all about money. If tomorrow China rises and god forbid Americans are living in povery, they would travel to other countries looking for employment and better living standards.

No one can contend that Indians/Asians/Latinos work harder and that is the reason they are here in US displacing US jobs.

All aside no one should "break" local locals. Everyone twists laws - everyone of us. If there is no cop, you drive fast!! I am not saying whether Infosys should misuse visas. They should not.

But aren't each one live/work for their own good. We break laws everyday!!

So, lets all work hard and get the work we deserve. Its an open economy.

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Mar 23, 2011 10:51 AM Justin Justin  says: in response to Justin

And Don you are correct. I was talking to one Indian guy the other say and he was telling me that most if not all Indians (and mostly south Indians) know atleast 4 languages - of which 3 they know how to write and 4 spoken. And obviously you can't beat them on grammar of their mother tounge!!

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Mar 23, 2011 11:22 AM P Revere P Revere  says: in response to Don Tennant

@Don

If I pointed out bad grammar in every comment on the Internet, I wouldn't have time to sleep.  I'm merely pointing out that, yet again, a "highly skilled" worker most likely here on an H-1B visa doesn't possess third grade grammar skills. 

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Mar 23, 2011 11:43 AM Don Tennant Don Tennant  says: in response to P Revere

OK. But I would submit to you that it's unfair to point that out without being equally willing to point out the third-grade grammar skills of Americans who probably only speak one language, and who question (often legitimately) the skills of H-1B workers. Beyond that, I would suggest that you be less driven to use this forum as an opportunity to insult people. Almost all of your comments contain at least one direct insult. You have excellent language skills. There's no reason why you can't make your point without relying on the tired insult approach.

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Mar 23, 2011 12:38 PM Don Tennant Don Tennant  says: in response to EngiNERD

You can download the Dan Rather HD Net piece from iTunes. I just watched it, and it's really good, including important input from Donna Conroy.

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Mar 24, 2011 2:05 AM hoapres hoapres  says: in response to EngiNERD

>> Will  Congress begin a congressional investigation of the administration of the various visa programs? <<

No

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Mar 24, 2011 7:41 AM Warior Warior  says: in response to hoapres

No way ! The indian money laundering and the riches control the congress so there will be nothing moving unless a revolution like Libya. Forget it...Don't dreaming you guys .. Wake up guys  The government knew the situation they let it happen for long time and nobody cares. Blame on who ?? Blame on the riches and the one who takes money. We can't do nothing unless some major shake up guys !

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Mar 24, 2011 10:58 AM EngiNERD EngiNERD  says:

Maybe the media is  finally coming to the realization their  might be a story here?

In case you  missed Dan Rather Report  (www.hd.net)  March  22, 2011  on INFOSYS

  "VISA  LOOPHOLE"

 

Here's the YouTube Posting

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZdhIR1-s8Mg

and NOTE    Rather is looking for individuals    that have lost their job to a foreign worker

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Mar 24, 2011 11:13 AM Don Tennant Don Tennant  says: in response to EngiNERD

There's been a major development -- watch for my blog post tomorrow morning.

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Mar 27, 2011 7:13 AM hoapres hoapres  says: in response to Don Tennant

Infosys being investigated is no big deal.

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