Phaneesh Murthy gets fired second time in 11 years after sexual harassment claims

 Goutam Das        Last Updated: May 22, 2013  | 12:10 IST

Goutam Das
Claims of sexual harassment came back to haunt Phaneesh Murthy, one of Indian IT's brightest stars and the just-fired chief executive of iGate Corp.

The company he turned around to a billion dollar entity in 2012 fired him after investigating a claim of sexual harassment.

"The board's decision was made as a result of an investigation by outside legal counsel, engaged by the board, of the facts and circumstances surrounding a relationship Mr. Murthy had with a subordinate employee and a claim of sexual harassment," iGate said in a statement.

"The investigation, which is ongoing, has reached the finding that Mr. Murthy's failure to report this relationship violated iGATE's policy, as well as Mr. Murthy's employment contract. The investigation has not uncovered any violation of iGATE's harassment policy," it added.

A call to Murthy's US mobile phone went into a voice mail and his Indian mobile phone was switched off Tuesday morning. He is scheduled to speak with reporters on a conference call at 10 am.

The script appears striking similar to what happened a decade back.

In 2002, Murthy, then a rising star at Infosys and one of founder N. R. Narayana Murthy's favourite co-workers, had to quit the company after being charged with a sexual harassment lawsuit by an American employee. Infosys reached a $3-million out-of-court settlement in 2003.

Phaneesh, now 49, a fashionable, smart, lean and tall executive, evidently has learnt little from the 2002 incident. It is immediately not clear what incident sparked investigations by iGate's board.

Like at Infosys, Phaneesh played a stellar role in iGate acquiring Patni Computer Systems in 2011 for $1.22 billion. Always articulate, Murthy came across as an executive who was quick to spot industry trends, many times ahead of what his competition saw. He was steering iGate towards so-called outcome-based pricing models for many years, something rest of the IT industry started talking about more recently. He was also early to see a shift of business from third party outsourcers to captives in the banking sector, because of regulations in the United States.

After the Infosys setback in 2002, Murthy made a thumping return professionally. The odds are against that this time around.

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