Clean chit for Infosys CEO Salil Parekh on whistleblower allegations

Clean chit for Infosys CEO Salil Parekh on whistleblower allegations
Salil Parekh  |  Photo Credit: Reuters
10 Jan, 2020

The audit committee appointed by Infosys to probe allegations made by whistleblowers against CEO Salil Parekh has found no evidence of financial irregularities or executive misconduct.

The Bengaluru based information technology company has not made the full report public.

However, with several regulatory probes simultaneously in progress, in India as well as the US, it will be some time before the company can put the latest whistleblower episode behind it. 

Chairman and co-founder Nandan Nilekani said in a statement that from the company's perspective it was over as the investigations were quite comprehensive.

"We work with several regulators across the world and we are in constant touch with them. They are fully up to date. We don't know how much time they will take to complete their investigations," Nilekani said. He was addressing the media on the issue of the whistleblower controversy during the press conference to announce the company's December quarter results.

Infosys said that the investigators pored over 2.1 lakh documents and 8 terabytes of data. They also conducted 128 interviews with 77 executives concerned with the allegations, the company said. 

Nilekani said that even in hindsight, the company had done absolutely the right things through the entire process. 

"We did everything by the law. It was a big distraction during the quarter and doubled the load of our executives. Facing interrogations was tough. The whistleblower policy cannot be weaponised," Nilekani said, adding that Infosys does not know whether the people who raised these allegations were employees. The whistleblower group had called themselves 'ethical employees'.

Infosys said that it had given the investigators full access to its records to complete the enquiry into the whistleblower allegations. Nilekani had notably stated earlier that even God could not change the company’s numbers.

An anonymous group calling itself ‘ethical employees’ had accused Infosys of using improper ways to boost revenue and profit numbers. The company has since maintained that it followed due diligence and appointed Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas (SAM) to look into the legal side of the complaint while external auditor PwC also looked at the company's books.

Infosys’ chief executive officer Salil Parekh and chief financial officer Nilanjan Roy were at the centre of the whistleblower storm. 

This is the second such public allegation that the company has faced in recent years. Its former CEO Vishal Sikka had resigned from his post in 2017, following a rather public disagreement with Infosys chairman NR Narayana Murthy. 

Sikka and Parekh are the first outsider CEOs Infosys has had since its inception.

In the media statement, Infosys addressed all the allegations raised by the whistleblowers including the purportedly racist comments that CEO Parekh allegedly made against the board members. Infosys maintained that it would not reveal the full investigation report to the public, citing confidentiality concerns, adding that the board members are of the highest integrity and that they should decide on the release of the full report.

The IT major is facing investigations by country's market regulator SEBI and US market regulator SEC. It had also received letters from the Secretary, National Financial Reporting Authority and the Registrar of Companies, Karnataka, seeking certain information in connection with the whistleblower complaints. The company had not provided more details on the nature of queries from these organisations. A few investors in the company had also started a class-action suit against the company alleging that its practices had resulted in financial loss for them.

A few analysts had said that the company could have been more forthcoming with disclosures to avoid embarrassment as it is seen as a model for corporate governance and transparency in the country.

However, with the clean chit to the company and its senior executives as well as the market-leading results, the company shares are expected to soar next week. The earnings and press conference were held after the markets closed on Friday.