Sacked iGate CEO Phaneesh Murthy held a conference call with a group of journalists to clarify his position on a new sexual harassment claim brought against him. A similar charge had led to his departure from Infosys in 2002.
The new allegation has been made by Araceli Roiz, Investor Relations Manager with iGate - a 31-year old American lady Murthy accepted he had a relationship with. Murthy denied the harassment charge. Excerpts from the call: Murthy:
Wanted to make a quick statement. Recently I learnt that a lady called Araceli Roiz, who is the IR head of iGate, has filed charges against me claiming sexual harassment. She has not filed in a court, just sent a letter to the company, claiming sexual harassment. 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. That is broadly the gist of it. Q. When were the charges filed?
A. The charges were filed late last week. The letter went to the company. It relates to a relationship I had over the past few months. Q. What is the next step for you?
A. I don't know if she is going to file in a court of law. If she does, I will obviously contest it. If she doesn't, obviously there is nothing to contest. It depends on what she and her lawyers decide. My course of action will be reactive. The intent will be to contest it vigorously if there is a lawsuit filed. Or if the company deems it fit that they should settle it using insurance, that is the company's prerogative. Q. Can you detail the employee policy of the company on relationships? When did you inform them?
A. Anybody can have a relationship but the company has to be informed. It is a small note in an employee handbook somewhere. If you look at your handbook, it might be there. That's all it is. Basically, you have to inform your superior. Q. Did you inform?
A. I did. Q. Why does the company claim you did not inform?
A. I don't know why they claimed so. I think it is related to a question of timing more than anything else. I informed them many weeks ago. Q. Did you inform the Chairman after the relationship was over or while it was going on?
A. After it was over.Q. Did the board feel you should have informed them earlier, perhaps at the beginning of the relationship?
A. I don't know. Q. Is there any similarity in the charges levelled against you this time and on the previous occasion in 2002?Are there parallels?
A. Not really. I still don't know the charges because the letter went directly to the company. The letter has not come to me. Because of that I don't know what exactly the charges are. Q. Is this a case of boardroom battle where you have been victimized or is it a case of extortion?
A. Without question, it is a case of extortion. I don't want to comment on any boardroom battle or anything like that. Ever since the first case became public, everybody feels that they have an absolutely easy way to collect money on whatever pretext. Q. Do you regret having this relationship with the employee, now that it has happened a second time?
A. The question is, was it sexual harassment? It was not. Q. What do you think are the odds that the same person will be charged of sexual misconduct twice?
A. It is the same lawyer.Q. Can you elaborate?
A. It is the same lawyer behind both the people (Reka Maximovitch, the lady who filed the lawsuit in 2002). Now do you think the odds are different? Q. How old is your relationship with the IR employee?
A. It is a few months old. Q. Why did the IR employee suddenly hurl charges against you?
A. When you figure out women let me know and I will take the lesson from you. Q. Were you given an opportunity to represent your case in front of the board?
A. No.Q. When did the investigation against you start?
A. It started after I informed the company about the relationship. It was before the recent claims. Q. Are you going to contest your termination?
A. I don't know. All of this has happened suddenly. Q. It may be too early to ask, but have you given a thought to what you are going to do next professionally?
A. I really don't know. All this happened a few hours ago. I was very much planning the next solutions to be built. Q. Would you go for an out of court settlement to avoid more negative publicity?
A. Can you imagine a scenario more negative than this? It is as negative as it can get. Q. How has your staff reacted to this?
A. There is overwhelming support. Q. Do you have any regrets over this relationship? Would you have done anything differently?
A. Difficult question to answer. Now with all that has happened, everything is a regret.