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UpFront/Special | May 23, 2013 | 28913 views

Araceli Roiz pregnant with Phaneesh Murthy's child, claim her lawyers

In a press release issued in the early hours of this morning, Araceli Roiz’s lawyers claim she was pregnant with Murthy’s child

Phaneesh Murthy was allegedly asked to leave iGate because Araceli Roiz, iGate’s head of investor relations, was pregnant with his child, and the Fremont California based IT firm faced the risk of multi-million dollar lawsuit.
 
In a statement released early this morning by her legal firm Aiman-Smith & Marcy, said, “When Ms Roiz refused to have an abortion, Mr. Murthy attempted to get her to leave the company and keep their relationship a secret.  It was not until after Ms Roiz refused to do so and informed him that she would be seeking legal representation and her lawyers contacted Mr. Murthy’s counsel that he reluctantly informed the Board of the relationship, just before the Board would have learned on its own from other sources. On behalf of Ms Roiz, we are contemplating next steps, which will certainly include court action against Mr. Murthy and iGate.”

Earlier in the evening Forbes India had asked Phaneesh Murthy if Ms Roiz was carrying his child. In a brief statement sent through his spokesperson Murthy said, “There are always two sides to the truth and now that the matter is definitely heading to court, I can't comment anymore.”

In an investor call on Tuesday, May 21, iGate said Roiz was on a medical leave. 

On May 21 when the news of his resignation became public, Murthy had spoken to us over telephone from his residence in Fremont, California. He said he had informed the Chairman of the Board of his relationship with Ms Roiz “a couple of months back”. When asked why he chose that time to speak to the Chairman, Murthy said, “there were a variety of reasons”. He refused to say anymore than this. 
  
You can read the full text of the lawyers’ statement below. We also spoke to Roiz’s lawyer, Randall Aiman-Smith, after the release was issued. Here are the edited excerpts of the interaction, 

 
1. Did Murthy know Roiz before her employment in iGate?
 A: No.
 
2. When exactly did Roiz come to know about her pregnancy? 
A: March 2013
 
3. Approximate date that Murthy informed the board about their relationship?
A: May 2, 2013
 
4. When did Roiz approach your law firm?
A: That information is confidential under law; it would be inappropriate for me to disclose it.
 
5. When did this interaction between Ms Roiz's lawyers and Murthy's counsel take place?  
A: It was part of a process; I’m not sure of the timing, but if I understand your question, I think it was after April, 2013.
 
6. When did your firm inform iGate about the issue?   (Mr Murthy said he came to know about the sexual harassment claim after your firm sent a letter of complaint to iGate's legal team) 
A: Mr. Murthy was aware of his own actions, and that they were wrong and illegal, from the minute he began his actions toward my client well over a year ago.  We did not “inform” (in the sense of bringing something to their attention for the first time) iGate’s legal team of anything; Murthy informed iGate’s Board of his relationship with my client on his own when he realized we were about to file suit. By the time I communicated with iGate's Board they were aware of the issues involved.  This was in May, 2013.

7. You say Murthy attempted to get her out of iGate, what exactly were his attempts?
A: He told her to leave.
 
8. You suggest that you are not happy with iGate's investigation. Why?
A: According to iGate, its investigation is ongoing. Accordingly, I am neither happy nor unhappy. What I did say is that a full, complete, reasonable, competent investigation will result in a finding that Mr. Murthy committed sex harassment as that term is defined by law in California.  
 
9. You also state that "when Roiz tried to extricate herself from the relationship, he reduced her responsibilities, threatened her continued employment, and pressured her to continue the relationship." Did this happen before or after her pregnancy? 
A: At various times, before, and then continuing thereafter.
 
10. Can you please give the timeline of events?
A: This was a complicated series of events; I can’t provide a complete version because it is too complicated; and a shortened version would be subject to misinterpretation. 
 
11. Are there any parallels between this case and the two previous cases you handled, what are the parallels?
A: Yes, there are several. Mr. Murthy’s approach to all victims was the same: to impose upon the victims personally to blur the distinction between work and personal issues as a means to breaking down the defenses of the victims. Second, both Infosys and iGate failed to have necessary oversight and reporting procedures in place to prevent Mr. Murthy’s actions or to provide a meaningful means for reporting them.
 
 
The Official Press Release from Araceli Roiz's Lawyers (Below) 
 
The law firm Aiman-Smith & Marcy announced today that they represent Araceli Roiz with respect to her claims for sex harassment against Phaneesh Murthy and iGate.  As is well known, the attorneys in the firm previously represented Reka Maximovitch and Jennifer Griffith in sex harassment lawsuits against Mr. Murthy for his actions while employed at Infosys. 
 
On behalf of Ms Roiz, we are contemplating next steps, which will certainly include court action against Mr. Murthy and iGate.  In such action, we will support, at minimum, the following facts.      
 
Ms Roiz was employed at iGate starting in May 2010.  She remains employed, though on medical leave at present.  She worked in Investor Relations.  Her nominal supervisor was iGate’s CFO, Sujit Sircar.  However, Mr. Sircar was based in India, so Ms Roiz’s day to day supervisor was Mr. Murthy. 
 
In his role as Ms Roiz’s supervisor, Mr. Murthy, as he had with his previous victims, insinuated himself into Ms Roiz’s personal life using the pretext of business necessity.  In this way, Mr. Murthy was able to induce Ms Roiz into behavior and action that she would have found unthinkable at the beginning of her employment.  The only reason Mr. Murthy was able to engage in these abusive and harassing actions is because he was Ms Roiz’s employer.  The CEO of any company, as Mr. Murthy was here, has tremendous economic and personal power over his subordinates.
 
Thus, Ms Roiz was dependent on her continued employment for her basic living expenses and, further, Mr. Murthy conditioned her further employment and career advancement opportunities on her entering into a relationship with him which, eventually and reluctantly, she did.  When she tried to extricate herself from the relationship, he reduced her responsibilities, threatened her continued employment, and pressured her to continue the relationship. 
 
As a result of Mr. Murthy’s influence over Ms Roiz, she continued the relationship with him and ultimately, Ms Roiz became pregnant with Mr. Murthy’s child.  When he discovered this, Mr. Murthy pressured Ms Roiz to have an abortion.  When she refused, he told her to leave the company, quietly, to protect his position as CEO. 
 
California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, which includes discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, and prohibits harassment on the basis of sex, which includes conditioning any form of employment benefit on a sexual relationship.  This law recognizes the basic truth that a supervisor has tremendous power over a subordinate both economically and personally. When the supervisor is the CEO and member of the Board of Directors, as Mr. Murthy was here, that power is magnified exponentially.  As one California court stated:  “Sexual harassment exists in terribly harsh, ugly, demeaning, and even debilitating ways. It is a form of violence against women as well as a form of economic coercion.”  Bihun v. AT&T Information Systems, Inc. (1993) 13 Cal. App. 4th 976, 1005.  Accordingly, there is no doubt in our mind that Mr. Murthy is liable for sex harassment of Ms Roiz here.
 
Under California law, because Mr. Murthy was an officer and director of iGate, his actions were the actions of iGate, and iGate, too, is liable for the acts of Mr. Murthy.  There remains the question of whether, given Mr. Murthy’s history of predatory actions toward female employees, iGate did all that it should have done to oversee and control Mr. Murthy and to provide some method for women at iGate to report his actions.  We have been in communication with iGate’s attorneys and iGate has stated that it is continuing its investigation.  Accordingly, we are not going to comment further at this time regarding iGate’s separate role in this matter.  
 
Those are the facts as we expect them to be proved in Court.  Had Mr. Murthy not convened a very public press conference in which he attempted to make himself look better by lying and slandering Ms Roiz, she would not have endured the embarrassment and humiliation of making these facts public; however, she has been forced to do so to counter Mr. Murthy’s very public, false statements.
 
With respect to specific issues raised by iGate and Mr. Murthy in the press, we respond to several points.
 
1. As to the timing of Mr. Murthy’s announcement to the Board:
         
When Ms Roiz refused to have an abortion, Mr. Murthy attempted to get her to leave the company and keep their relationship a secret.  It was not until after Ms Roiz refused to do so and informed him that she would be seeking legal representation and her lawyers contacted Mr. Murthy’s counsel that he reluctantly informed the Board of the relationship, just before the Board would have learned on its own from other sources.  
 
2. As to Mr. Murthy’s comments in his press conference that the relationship lasted “only a few months”:
 
Mr. Murthy’s statement is a lie - Mr. Murthy began pursuing Ms Roiz shortly after her employment began in 2010.
 
3. As to Mr. Murthy’s comments that Ms Roiz or her attorneys are engaging in “extortion” by capitalizing on his prior reputation:
 
Mr. Murthy’s comments are defamatory and a despicable attempt to “blame the victim,” who only wants to somehow continue her career and support her child.  Mr. Murthy has, astonishingly, attempted to gain sympathy based on his own prior bad actions.  Ms Roiz selected the law firm, Aiman-Smith & Marcy, based upon the firm’s excellent reputation as vigorous advocates for victims of employment discrimination and its prior success in getting compensation for some of Mr. Murthy’s previous victims.  More information on the law firm can be found at www.asmlawyers.com
 
4. As to iGate’s press statement that Mr. Murthy had not violated its sexual harassment policy:
 
As noted, under California law, the employer is liable for the conduct of its CEO.  We do not believe a full, impartial, investigation can possibly result in this conclusion, but we note that, according to iGate, its investigation is continuing.  We hope that iGate will take appropriate responsibility in this matter and that it can be concluded on that basis.  
 

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Comments (11)
Ram Jun 30, 2013
This person has been disrespectful to everyone. He has had no regard for his wife and family, his co workers, his employer, his clients. Worst yet, he demanded this woman have an abortion? I hope his wife writes a tell all book of what she really knows about this trash.
Sidhu Jun 28, 2013
This Phaneesh Murthy has no RESPECT! He cheated on his wife again, he cheated his co worker's and he cheated an unborn child of a father, He cheated investors when he made his behavior public and they took the loss. BUT DID YOU KNOW PHANEESH MURPTHY JUST PURCHASED A NEW FIVE BEDROOM HOME IN FREMONT WITH YOUR MONEY?
Gopal Chakravarthy Jun 23, 2013
It's a egregious conduct and in violation of his employment contract. Action to the full extent of the law must be taken. Recovery for the aggrieved parties should be done..ie iGate should recover the full costs from Phaneesh.
He is not representative of the IISc and IIT pool of talent and that must be made clear.
Dk Samuel May 29, 2013
Once it can be forgiven, but 3 times , it is time to shutup and go, poor family members, Hope Phanesh escapes jail
Karma Yogi May 24, 2013
Aside from this case, this is a clear example of insider trading by Phaneesh and the CFO. They both sold shares worth multiple millions in March, April 2013 with an average price of $18-$19. They both knew the shares would tank (price is around $14 now) once the case was made public.

I have filed an insider trading case against Phaneesh with the SEC. More to follow.
S. Srinivasan May 23, 2013
Brilliant coverage of this unfolding saga. Keep it coming.
Unfortunately, many think it was just a case of two people sleeping together during office time. Some are even amused by it. We can only hope that this episode will create some awareness about sexual harassment in Indian companies.
Sachi Mohanty May 23, 2013
Sad story.

America continues to be this Puritan society while Europeans have moved on.

Some way should have been found to make sure that the woman does not suffer nor does the man.

These are matters of sexual relations between men and women which should remain in the private domain and not be over-analyzed in the public domain.

I am also thinking of numerous other similar instances -€” whether it's Mark Hurd or General Petraus or Bill Clinton or Heather Mills (is that the correct name of the former Ms. Paul McCartney?).
Response to Sachi Mohanty:
C.d. May 26, 2013
"These are matters of sexual relations between men and women which should remain in the private domain and not be over-analyzed in the public domain."
@Sachi Mohanty, which cave have you emerged from?
Akg May 23, 2013
Quite shameful if true. The CEO of a company should be a role model ...... if proved in court, more than the money, he would lose his honour and self-respect. I hope that the investigations and the process of law result in a credible outcome.
Anom May 23, 2013
Murphy has a way different outlook on his story than this attorney?
Response to Anom:
Ram Jun 30, 2013
Don't liars always believe there own tales?
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