Ousted Phaneesh denies charges, as industry pounces on

By : |May 21, 2013 0

BANGALORE, INDIA: It is not easy when you are accused of committing the same mistake twice. iGate Corporation president and chief executive officer, Phaneesh Murthy, must have felt the implications of such a scenario on Tuesday, as he came out denying all the charges leveled against him on alleged sexual harassment of a female subordinate in the company.

Earlier in the day, iGate Corporation announced that its board of directors had terminated the employment of Murthy as a result of an investigation of the facts and circumstances surrounding a relationship that he had with a subordinate employee as well as a claim of sexual harassment.

“There is no parallel between the 2002 sexual harassment case and this one,” asserted Murthy at an analyst call, “I do believe that the charges are completely false. Company thought it is fit to believe that I had violated company policy and terminated my employment. I also do not believe I have actually violated company policy. That is a separate point altogether.”

In 2002, he had to leave Infosys after a sexual harassment lawsuit was filed against him and the company, which was settled out of court.

He further added that it was an ‘act of extortion’, though he wasn’t aware of the ‘exact charges’ involved. “I have not received the letter, only company has received the complaint,” he said.

Meanwhile, the iGate board has appointed Gerhard Watzinger as Murthy’s interim replacement.

At this point, it is surmised that the subordinate in question is one Araceli Roiz, head of Investor Relations. “We do not know if she is going to file in a court of law. If she does, obviously I will contest it. If she doesn’t, then there is nothing to contest really, from her point of view,” said Murthy.

“So, my course of action will be more reactive obviously at this moment. The intent will be to fight it vigorously, if indeed there is a lawsuit filed. And if the company deems it is fit that they should settle using insurance company, then that is the company’s prerogative,” Murthy made his intentions clear.

Reacting to a query on a person being indicted twice in a span of 10 years for the same misconduct, Murthy said, “It’s the same lawyer… representing both people (women involved in the two cases of sexual harassment). Now, do you think the odds are different?”

The beleaguered industry veteran also mentioned that some employees of iGate have threatened to resign in his support.

Some of his industry colleagues, however, didn’t seem to subscribe to the ‘solidarity clause’ completely.

National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM) chairman, Krishnakumar Natarajan, felt that iGate board had taken a right decision over the alleged sexual harassment, and stressed upon the need to arrive at quick and decisive action in such incidents for the welfare of the industry.

“A right decision has been taken. I think the decision reflects what IT industry standards for.”

Natarajan, however, was quoted opining that the industry body wouldn’t look at revising policies concerning sexual harassment, but continue with sensitization sessions for all its member organizations.

“In the recent past, I have visited several cities across India and conducted one-day workshops on sexual harassment, because most companies have 30-40 per cent women employees. So, these are fundamental infrastructure we need to create.” Natarajan said.

It is also learnt that Mohandas Pai, former Infosys board member had reacted strongly to the news, saying, “One would have thought that Phaneesh Murthy would have learnt not to do such things again and to steer away and to rebuild his career. But unfortunately, he seems to have succumbed again.”

“This should be a message to all leaders in business, any transgression of your obligations, you will be punished and punishment will be severe.”

What is your stand on the issue? Do you support Murthy or think it’s a case of ‘twice bitten, never shy’?

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