Before it became public knowledge that Infosys employee Jay Palmer had submitted a whistleblower complaint alleging visa and tax fraud, Infosys corporate counsel Jeffrey Friedel acknowledged internally that the complaint warranted corporate action and compelled Infosys' management to make changes to prevent misuse of the B-1 visa program. That acknowledgement begs the question of why, in the wake of Palmer's testimony to a Senate subcommittee last week, Infosys has publicly branded Palmer as a liar.
On Dec. 8, more than two months before the allegations against Infosys became public when Palmer filed his lawsuit against the company, Friedel sent an email addressed to Palmer and to a second whistleblower who worked in Infosys' HR department, and who, unlike Palmer, has since left the company. Here is the full text of that email:
I wanted to give you a brief update on the progress of the corporate action taken in response to the investigation of your complaints regarding B-1 visa ("BV") compliance issues. The issues that you reported to us have made it clear to management that certain changes need to be made to our systems and processes to prevent the misuse of the BV program. To that end, we have identified the following solutions for immediate action:
1. Clarify the range of activities permissible on BV (outside counsel have provided an exhaustive list of all acceptable activities as per the law)
2. Modify iTravel -- Employees and approvers to certify the all [sic] activities they will perform at onsite on BV.
3. Modify DART [Daily Activity Report Tracking] to create linkage to activities certified in iTravel.
4. Employees to submit DART mandatorily onsite and select from the activities certified
5. Modify ORF [Overseas Return Form] to not allow submission till DARTs are submitted for the onsite duration
6. Create online training plan and communiques to improve awareness on BV travels
7. Provide for regular random audits of BVs to ensure ongoing compliance
I appreciate your help in bringing these matters to our attention. Obviously there are still other aspects of this that are ongoing (i.e. discipline for those that are found to have violated company policy/law; Jay's desire to change groups etc.) and this e-mail is not meant [to] suggest that this investigation or action is complete. However, I thought that it was important for you to understand the corporate action that has been agreed as a result of your bringing these issues to the attention of the company.
Now, fast-forward to last week, when, at the request of the office of Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), Palmer detailed his allegations against Infosys in testimony submitted to a Senate sub-committee hearing on immigration reform (see "Infosys Whistleblower Provides Hard-hitting Testimony to Senate Hearing"). You'd certainly never know from Infosys' public response to that testimony that internally, Palmer's revelations had driven the company to make the changes necessary to prevent the B-1 misuse, and to express its appreciation to Palmer and the other whistleblower for bringing the matters to the company's attention. Instead, Paul Gottsegen, Infosys' chief marketing officer, issued a statement claiming that Palmer's testimony was "full of inaccuracies, exaggerations and falsehoods," and that Palmer "is obviously intent on spreading his falsehoods about Infosys and our business practices as broadly as possible in order to advance his objective of getting as big of a payout as he can from the Company" (Gottsegen's full statement can be found in my post, "Internal Infosys Document Eyes Wiggle Room' Around Visa Rules").
Bear in mind that it is those very business practices that Infosys' corporate counsel acknowledged the need to change in order to prevent the misuse of the B-1 visa program. So calling Palmer a liar now that it's all out in the open seems to me to be an extremely ill-advised and shortsighted strategy.
My sense is that sort of thing doesn't go over too well in Alabama, where Palmer and his attorney, Kenny Mendelsohn, live. You don't call someone a liar down there unless you can back it up. Mendelsohn has been sitting on that email from Friedel for months. It's just one document in a stack of evidence that, as he put it the first time I spoke with him back in March, "a show dog can't jump over." He said he was releasing it to me to demonstrate that Palmer can back up everything he wrote in his testimony to that Senate sub-committee.
Mendelsohn also had a response to Gottsegen's statement that Palmer's objective is to get as big a payout as he can from Infosys. He said Palmer was offended by that, and he intends to prove his truthfulness. The best way to do that, he said, is a public trial. So he doesn't want a settlement.
Mendelsohn said Palmer is prepared to testify under oath. It appears Gottsegen had better be prepared to do the same thing. "At the appropriate time," Mendelsohn told me, "I intend to take Mr. Gottsegen's deposition to find out what evidence he has to accuse Jay of telling lies or falsehoods.'"
Infosys should have thought this one through.