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.