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Feds Offer Protection to Infosys Whistleblower Following Death Threats

Don Tennant

In the wake of a second death threat made against Infosys Technologies employee and whistleblower Jay Palmer, U.S. government authorities have offered to make security personnel available to provide protection against any effort to carry out the threats against Palmer and his family.

 

As I reported in my recent post, "Infosys Whistleblower Receives Another Death Threat," Palmer on April 21 received an email threat that read as follows (spelling as it appears in the email):

if you make cause for us to sent back to india we will destroy you and yuor family

The first threat had come in February, shortly after Palmer filed his lawsuit against Infosys, alleging that the company had engaged in visa and tax fraud. On Friday I spoke with Palmer's attorney, Kenny Mendelsohn, and he confirmed the feds' offer, which Palmer chose to decline:

When we got that latest threat, we reported it to them, and they offered to provide him with security and protection if he needed it. I think Jay felt he was OK without having to have round-the-clock protection. While this is a more serious threat, we just think nothing has been done to indicate he's in immediate [danger of] harm. He'd rather protect himself and his family than have U.S. marshals or undercover agents or something like that around his house, and disrupting his family life. This most recent threat said if these folks get deported, they're going to do something. So if that happens, we may take some additional steps at that time.

A second reason that Palmer declined the federal protection is that local law enforcement officials in Lowndes County, Ala., where Palmer lives, are already watching out for him. After Infosys refused Palmer's request to equip his home with a fence and security system, Mendelsohn told him to report the matter to the

county sheriff:

The county sheriff is aware of it, and he's keeping an eye on the location where Jay lives. In Jay's area, that's who's in charge of law enforcement. He lives in a small town that doesn't have a police department.

Palmer, meanwhile, is still languishing at home because Infosys won't assign him to another project. That has created serious financial hardship for him, because he doesn't accrue any bonus money while he's on the bench, and that's a significant portion of his income. According to Mendelsohn:

They don't know what to do with him. They're afraid to put him in another site because I think they're afraid they have some improper things going on at the other sites, and they know that he would disclose those - they understand that Jay would report any other crimes he sees. They've had more than enough time to find a place for somebody with his talents. There's work out there they can use him for. [Jay] knows of clients that are in dire need of his skills, where he could go in and be a big help. But they're not going to put him back to any work. They're just going to keep paying him to sit there, which is strange. They [at Infosys] claim that they're looking for [an assignment] for him, but I'm confident that they're not. We've reported that to the lawyer handling the whistleblower matter, because I consider this to be another form of retaliation and harassment. We've not been able to get a straight answer back from the independent counsel handling these whistleblower claims as to why he's not working.

In any case, that the federal authorities conducting the criminal investigation against Infosys take the threats against Palmer and his family seriously enough to make the protection offer speaks volumes about the seriousness of the investigation itself, and the determination of the U.S. government to hold Infosys and its leaders accountable for any illegal activity that may have occurred. With Palmer's civil case pending and the U.S. government's criminal investigation presenting the looming possibility that a criminal case will be filed as well, it's hard to imagine that Infosys' leaders aren't growing increasingly concerned.

 


As I reported in my recent post, "Advice for India: Screen Those Ex-Infosys Execs Well," Mohandas Pai, the former Infosys board member and head of human resources who abruptly resigned from the company last month, proclaimed that Infosys would "rigorously defend" itself against the allegations. Now Narayana Murthy, the outgoing chairman of Infosys, has addressed Palmer's case as well.

 

In an interview with India Knowledge@Wharton, a media outlet affiliated with the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, Murthy 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.

That dismissiveness - questioning "whether there is any issue at all" - was an intriguing way to respond. The vast amount of evidence that Palmer and Mendelsohn have accumulated to prove the fraud allegations in the civil case aside, the intensity of the U.S. government's criminal investigation and its preparedness to protect the whistleblower who brought it all to light could not have been lost on Murthy. The downplaying tactic, while routine, is inconsistent with a genuine eagerness to uncover the truth.

 

That's why I was so disturbed by another quote from Murthy, a response to a question posed to him earlier this year about the qualities needed to manage people, partners and customers. This is what he said:

In all these areas you need a sense of integrity. Integrity is about doing the right thing. It is about being fair to others, having the courage to tell others not to do wrong things. Integrity is about delivering on promise. It is also about being truthful. I believe integrity is one quality that is the foundation of all relationships whether it is your customer or partner. That said, it does not suffice if you are only an honest person. It is very important for honest people to condemn dishonest people publicly.

"It is about being fair to others, having the courage to tell others not to do wrong things." I have a feeling, Mr. Murthy, that those words are going to come back to haunt you.


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