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Large-Scale Visa Fraud Alleged at Infosys
Infosys, which employs more than 15,000 foreign workers in the United States, systematically commits visa fraud and tax fraud to increase profits, and threatened and retaliated against a "principal consultant" who called them on it, the man claims in Lowndes County Court. On its Web page, Infosys describes itself as specializing in business consulting and strategic IT services outsourcing, with 2010 revenue of $5.7 billion, and 127,779 employees. In his complaint, Jack Palmer says he worked for Infosys "as a Principal - Enterprise Solutions" since August 2008. Many of Infosys' 15,000 foreign nationals who work in the United States do so on H-1B visas, Palmer says: "Infosys is an H-1B dependent corporation and is one of the biggest 'users' of the H-1B program." After the federal government restricted the H-1B program, in 2009, Palmer says, he was sent to Bangalore, India, for "planning meetings."
          
Large-Scale Visa Fraud Alleged at Infosys
By STEVEN CALLEGAN, Courthouse News Service
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HAYNEVILLE, Ala. (CN) - Infosys, which employs more than 15,000 foreign workers in the United States, systematically commits visa fraud and tax fraud to increase profits, and threatened and retaliated against a "principal consultant" who called them on it, the man claims in Lowndes County Court. On its Web page, Infosys describes itself as specializing in business consulting and strategic IT services outsourcing, with 2010 revenue of $5.7 billion, and 127,779 employees.

In his complaint, Jack Palmer says he worked for Infosys "as a Principal - Enterprise Solutions" since August 2008.

Many of Infosys' 15,000 foreign nationals who work in the United States do so on H-1B visas, Palmer says: "Infosys is an H-1B dependent corporation and is one of the biggest 'users' of the H-1B program."

After the federal government restricted the H-1B program, in 2009, Palmer says, he was sent to Bangalore, India, for "planning meetings."

"During one of the meetings, Infosys management, discussed the need to, and ways to, 'creatively' get around the H-1B limitations and process and to work the system in order to increase profits and the value of Infosys' stock. The decision was made by management to start using the B-1 visa program to get around the H-1B restrictions.

"Under the law, the B-1 visa category applies to temporary business visitors who come to the United States to conduct activities of a commercial or professional nature, such as consulting with business associates, negotiating a contract, or attending business conferences. Individuals on B-1 visas are prohibited by law from working in full time jobs in the United States.

"During the course of his employment, plaintiff learned the Infosys was sending lower level and unskilled foreigners to the United States to work in full-time positions at Infosys' customer sites in direct violation of immigration laws. Plaintiff also learned that Infosys was paying these employees in India for full-time work in the United States without withholding federal or state income taxes. Plaintiff also learned that Infosys overbilled its customers for the labor costs of these employees.

"In order for a foreign Infosys employee to obtain a B-1 visa, an American employee of Infosys had to write a 'welcome letter,' basically stating that the employee was coming to the United States for meetings rather than to work at a job."

Palmer says that Infosys managers in the United States and India asked him to write false welcome letters, and he refused. On July 1, 2010, he says, he "was asked to join a conference call in regards to his refusal to write the 'welcome letters,' during which call plaintiff was chastised for not being a 'team player.'"

Then he was transferred to another project in a different division, Palmer says. There, he says, he "soon learned that Infosys was illegally employing B-1 visa holders on that project as well." Infosys asked him to rewrite the contract for that project, and he refused, "because he knew that the purpose was to try to cover up Infosys' overcharging this customer by using the lower-income B-1 employees and charging the higher pay rate for specialized employees," according to the complaint.

Palmer says he called Infosys corporate counsel, Jeff Friedel, and explained the violations to him. Friedel is not named as a party to this lawsuit.

In September 2010, Palmer says, an Infosys manager from India "confirmed the violations, but stressed to the plaintiff that it was important to 'keep this quiet.'"

Palmer says he got "further pressure, harassment and retaliation for refusing to be a part of the illegal conduct."

At Friedel's urging, he says, he filed a report with Infosys' "Whistleblower Team," on Oct. 11, 2010. But the whistleblower team "failed and refused to promptly investigate plaintiff's report and still refuses to thoroughly and fairly investigate and correct the illegal conduct," Palmer says.

Since filing his report, he says, he has been "subjected to constant harassment, threats, and retaliation" including "numerous threatening phone calls;" monitoring of his emails; "racial taunts or slurs, including being called 'a stupid America' and criticized for being a Christian;" refusal to pay his bonuses; refusal to "reimburse him for customary and substantial expenses;" and being forced to work more than 70 hours a week "without appropriate compensation."

Palmer says he reported to Friedel that Infosys was breaking other laws, including "failure to pay federal and state income taxes; falsification of I-9 forms; and the fraudulent and illegal documentation of aliens." And he claims that Friedel "admitted by electronic mail and via phone calls that Infosys was and is guilty of visa fraud."

Palmer says he repeatedly reports the "threats and retaliations" to Infosys human relations department and to corporate counsel, and they refused to do anything about it.

He seeks punitive damages for breach of contract, expenses, intentional infliction of emotional distress, outrage, negligence and wanton misconduct, and legal misrepresentation and fraud. He is represented by Kenneth Mendelsohn of Montgomery.

Whistle-Blower Claiming Visa Fraud Keeps His Job, but Not His Work
By JULIA PRESTON, NY TIMES, Published: April 12, 2012
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It has been 17 months since Jack B. Palmer first made a quiet complaint through internal channels at Infosys, the giant Indian outsourcing company he works for, saying he suspected some managers were committing visa fraud. Since then, Mr. Palmer says, he has been harassed by superiors and co-workers, sidelined with no work assignment, shut out of the company’s computers, denied bonuses and hounded by death threats.

But what has driven him nearly crazy, with bouts of depression alternating with rage, Mr. Palmer said, is the silence. Since last April, Mr. Palmer has been stewing day after day in his home near Montgomery, Ala., contemplating a blank Infosys screen on his computer and agonizing over whether his whistle-blowing was worth it.

“They did the worst thing they could do to someone who is used to working 80 hours a week,” Mr. Palmer said. “They sit me at home and cut me off from everything. My life is floating in Infosys purgatory.”

Mr. Palmer’s experience since he filed his first report in October 2010 alleging misuse of business visitor visas for Indian workers is a cautionary tale about the perils of confronting a big corporation. Mr. Palmer’s travails have been compounded because he is in a small minority of Americans employed by the huge company, which has $6.8 billion in annual revenues and about 15,000 employees in the United States alone, most from India.

A lawsuit Mr. Palmer filed against Infosys in February 2011 prompted federal prosecutors in Plano, Tex., where the company has offices, to open a criminal investigation that is still expanding. Federal investigators are looking into whether the company used workers from India for certain kinds of jobs here that were not allowed under their temporary visas, known as B-1. They are also examining numerous irregularities in the company’s hiring practices and documents, federal officials said.

Infosys, a fast-growing global business that has carefully built a reputation for integrity, vigorously denies Mr. Palmer’s accusations and is fighting his lawsuit in federal court in Montgomery.

“Any allegation or assertion that there is or was a corporate policy of evading the law in conjunction with the B-1 visa program is simply not accurate,” Ted Bockius, an Infosys spokesman, said Thursday. Infosys has been in discussions with the federal authorities, he said, and has complied with a subpoena they issued. He added that fewer than 2 percent of the company’s workers in the United States at any time are on B-1 visitor visas.

Mr. Palmer, 44, a software project manager for Infosys since August 2008, said he decided to sue the company, claiming he was punished for reporting corporate misdeeds, after executives pressured him to drop his complaints. But even as the months have crawled by, Mr. Palmer has not quit his Infosys job, fearing he will not get another one now that he is known as the guy who went up against the Indian company.

“The mental and physical challenge one takes on after blowing the whistle is excruciating,” Mr. Palmer, who is known as Jay, wrote in a recent e-mail. After what he has seen, he said, “It will be hard for me to advise anyone to blow the whistle.”

In Senate testimony and court documents, Mr. Palmer charged that Infosys brought Indian workers on short-term visitor visas, known as B-1, instead of longer-term temporary visas, known as H-1B, which are more costly and time-consuming to obtain. Infosys and other Indian technology outsourcing companies are consistently among the top users of H-1B visas, but in recent years intensified scrutiny by the State Department has made those visas more difficult to get.

The B-1 is for foreigners coming for conferences or to conduct training, consulting or contract negotiations who continue as employees of the company abroad. They are paid at the generally lower wage rates of the home country.

“This was totally about profit and not hiring Americans for jobs in the U.S. due to higher salary requirements,” Mr. Palmer told the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on immigration in July. Besides Mr. Palmer, at least two other Infosys managers have provided information to investigators about alleged visa abuses.

Mr. Palmer is still on the Infosys payroll, but with no work and little communication from the company, and his moods swing erratically, he said. He has struggled with drinking, gained and lost 20 pounds and taken medication for anger and depression.

“You’re around people every day, and then all of a sudden you are staring at four walls,” Mr. Palmer wrote in an e-mail. “No one will hire me and I can’t quit, so they just torture me. I have become numb and cumbersome to this world.”

Menacing calls to his home and his mother’s nearby prompted him to buy a handgun, which he straps to his ankle whenever he goes out. Always on edge, he drew the gun in February on a salesman who tried to approach his house to offer cleaning goods.

His lawyer, Kenneth J. Mendelsohn of Montgomery, has been both counsel and counselor, taking Mr. Palmer to baseball games and often speaking with him several times a day to keep his spirits from plunging.

Mr. Palmer said his troubles started soon after he filed his first report through an internal whistle-blower channel designated by Jeffrey Friedel, a senior Infosys lawyer. The company had asked Mr. Palmer to write “welcome letters” for B-1 visa workers from India. He refused.

“Basically, these letters falsely claim the foreign employee is coming to visit rather than to work,” Mr. Palmer said. “Past events started to click in my mind.” Indian employees he had placed as full-time programmers on projects he managed told him they were struggling to survive in the United States on Indian wages. “The B-1 workers were fully employed in this country, and Infosys was charging its customers full-time wages,” he said.

Within days of his report, Mr. Palmer said, it leaked within the company. One manager threatened to fire him, he said, and he received angry calls from co-workers. In November 2010, according to court documents, he found a death threat, neatly printed, on the chair in his office.

At first undaunted, Mr. Palmer sent barrages of e-mails describing apparent visa violations. But in December, he said, he received only about $3,000 of a $45,000 bonus he believed he had earned. Since Infosys has assigned him no work at all since last April, he received no bonus for 2011, losing one-third of his income.

A problem for Mr. Palmer is that the rules governing B-1 visas are so complex that skilled immigration lawyers can disagree on them. Infosys has argued that its practices were legal under a provision that sometimes allows foreign employees to come on B-1 instead of H-1B visas.

Mr. Bockius, the Infosys spokesman, denied any harassment of Mr. Palmer: “We have not retaliated in any way.”

But the judge in Alabama gave the first round of the whistle-blower lawsuit to Mr. Palmer, denying Infosys’s effort to force the matter into binding arbitration.

Mr. Palmer said his friends at Infosys now shun him. “You start to feel like you are the one who has done everything wrong,” he said. He continues to receive explicit death threats.

“It is people like you that make us Indians angry,” said one he received by e-mail. “Why must you drag us down into poverty. You fat lazy greddy American.”

But Mr. Palmer said: “My only worry is that Infosys will be slapped on the wrist and will continue to thwart our laws. As much as I need my life back, I will not let this happen.”

 
© 2003 The E-Accountability Foundation