Indian IT honcho Phaneesh Murthy sacked for undisclosed relationship

Washington/Bangalore, May 21 (IANS) Indian tech honcho Phaneesh Murthy was Tuesday sacked as chief executive of US-based software services company iGate Corporation “for not disclosing a relationship with a subordinate”, over a decade after he was forced to quit Indian IT bellwether Infosys on similar charges of sexual misconduct.

“The decision to terminate the employment of president and chief executive Phaneesh Murthy was made following an investigation into a relationship he had with a subordinate employee and a claim of sexual harassment,” the company said in a statement from Fremont in California earlier in the day.

The investigation was carried out by a third-party legal counsel engaged by the board after the company’s investor relations manager Araceli Roiz, a 31-year-old American, gave a written complaint of sexual harassment.

The firm said it had investigated “a claim of sexual harassment” against Murthy and found that he had not violated the firm’s harassment policy.

“Murthy’s failure to report this relationship violated iGATE’s policy, as well as Murthy’s employment contract,” the firm said.

iGate co-founder and co-chairman Sunil Wadhwani in a statement said, “We recognise the significant contributions of Murthy over the past 10 years in helping to establish iGate as a leader in the IT industry. He has worked hard to improve the company’s value, and we greatly appreciate his efforts. However, as a result of our policy, we asked Mr. Murthy to step down.”

In a conference call from the US hours after the sack, Murthy denied the harassment charge but admitted to having relationship with the subordinate employee.

“I do believe the charges are completely false. But it is pursuant to a relationship I had with her. Based on that, the company found it fit to believe that I had violated company policy and terminated my employment. I don’t believe I have violated company policy,” Murthy told reporters in his defence.

Over a decade ago (2002), when Murthy was on the Infosys’ board as director and its global sales head, he was accused of sexual abuse by his former secretary Reka Maximovitch, a Bulgarian-American national.

Infosys went for a $3-million out-of-court settlement with Maximovitch to withdraw the sex lawsuit against Murthy and the company, and sacked Murthy later for violating the company’s ethical standards and corporate governance.

The Nasdaq-listed iGate appointed Gerhard Watzinger in place of Murthy as an interim president and chief executive with immediate effect.

The company’s another co-founder, Ashok Trivedi, clarified that Murthy’s departure was not related in any way to the company’s operational or financial performance, both of which remain strong.

“iGate will continue to focus on creating value for our customers and shareholders, while upholding the highest ethical standards in every area of our business. We are fortunate to have Watzinger returning during this transition,” Trivedi noted.

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