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FEATURES/Boardroom | May 24, 2013 | 19600 views

Phaneesh Murthy: The two chairmen came to my office and told me I have to leave today

An interview with Phaneesh Murthy
Phaneesh Murthy: The two chairmen came to my office and told me I have to leave today
Image: Mallikarjun Katakol for Forbes India

Q. When did you inform the Chairman about your relationship?
A. Relationship ended a few months ago, I informed the Chairman a few weeks ago, letter was received by the company a few days ago and I was informed yesterday. It was on for a few months. I won’t get into any specifics because it is very likely that this will end up in court.

Q. Was she reporting into you?
A. No

Q. Was she hired by you?
A. No

Q. Did you interview her?
A. She was interviewed by the CFO, I met her before she joined for the final interview.

Q. How long she was in the company?
A. Close to three years…

Q. What prompted you to talk to the Chairman (about your relationship)?
A. There were a variety of reasons. There were a combination of factors,

Q. What was their reaction like when you informed them?
A. They suggested we appoint an investigator and do an external investigation.

Q. Were you asked to go on leave at that time?
A. I was not in California, I was traveling in Europe at that time.

Q. Did you hear anything in between?
A. I spoke to the investigators, they also spoke to a few other people. And the sense that seemed to be was that there was no evidence of sexual harassment.

Q. So all this while, you continued working, until last evening?
A. That’s right.

Q. What is your read of this whole thing?
A. They say that I have violated the company employee handbook. Which basically says that any relationship between two employees in a company should be reported.

Q. We have talked to many people today and when there is a senior-junior relationship in a company it should be reported. Isn’t it mandatory? Shouldn’t you have done it?
A. I didn’t know about the handbook, I didn’t know about the rule. If I had known about it, I should have done it. If you look through your own employee handbook, there will be lots of rules you won’t know about…

Q. Perhaps, yes…..
A. There are thousands of rules (pauses) had I known, that’s a different issue......

Q. Given your position and what happened at Infosys, somebody like you should have been paying more attention to the rulebook. How could you miss something like this? Weren’t you supposed to be more vigilant? 
A. Yeah, you are right, no question about it. I should have been, but I wasn’t. 

Q. What did you think would be the outcome when you told the Chairman?
A. Given how corporations think, I expected this to be the outcome. 

Q. So you saw this (termination of services) coming?
A. I have been through this, so to that extent, I know what was coming next. 

Q. Do you have a lawyer or a legal counsel?
A. Not yet, I was working till yesterday. I will contact my lawyer today.

Q. What happens to the company after this? You were leading the merger with Patni. Have you spoken to the Board about that?
A. They have not asked me for any advice. They have gone ahead and appointed a person. I am assuming they are on top of it. 

Q. How did you hear about the termination?
A. The two Chairmen came to my office and informed me. They told me I have to leave today. Once they had appointed a new CEO what am I trying to protect? 

Q. What about conversations with your family? Have you had time to do that? Have you prepared them?
A. I did, but I don’t want to talk too much about it.

Q. What are the next steps for you?
A. I don’t know. I have to think, perhaps correct as many mistakes as I can. I don’t know. This all happened quite suddenly. 

Q. What about your shares in iGate?
A. I have vested shares and some outstanding.

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Comments (6)
Sidhu May 29, 2013
Really? Big powerful money making man get fired in person and told to leave the premises. There has got to be another reason. These guys don't care who and how many women Phaneesh Murthy slept with. What is the real reason for his dismissal?
Kermit May 29, 2013
Tisk,Tisk. Poor little boy got caught with his hand in the cookie jar.
Neelesh Kos May 29, 2013
This is all very sad. Phaneesh should have been more careful having been through all this a decade earlier. If I were his adviser, I would like to say this that his first priority at this stage would be to look at managing media and public perception. Nothing else!
And in India more than anywhere else.

It is indeed a very big COINCIDENCE that the same law firm is being engaged as 10 years ago. Talk about history repeating itself.

A person's personal life is nobody's business. But try explaining this to the tabloid press...Am just saying...
Sachi Mohanty May 28, 2013
Since I posted a long comment on another article which profiled Phaneesh Murthy, I will merely say here that this is all very sad.

The Board is merely being chicken like the HP board was with respect to Mark Hurd.

When in frigging hell are we going to grow up? And this is not even some B-class Indian city where one might IMAGINE some corrupt businessman or politician exploiting some woman who may be powerless to protest or protect herself.

In Fremont, this should have been handled with more maturity. No need for firing a CEO or ANY employee.

It's not as if someone got raped in the executive suite or a closet late at night ... let alone 10 or 100 such incidents.

To fire the CEO is sort of like ... Oh, I see a dent in the car body, let's get a TANK and run it over the car!
Sriram May 25, 2013
If the responses above have not been quoted out of context, or edited in any way, they seem to indicate a man who is a trifle remorseful for his misdeeds. All said and done, he just cant get away with not knowing the rule book because it has 'so many rules' ! Of course a rule book WILL have so many rules, but the onus is still on him to know what the rule book says.

Will he ever be able to resurrect his career now ? Very doubtful.
Response to Sriram:
Nikhil May 25, 2013
Consensual sex is not a crime. Not telling your company about it shouldn't be a crime either.
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