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Whistleblower In Limbo After Reporting H-1B Visa Fraud At Infosys 276

Posted by Soulskill
from the par-for-the-course dept.
McGruber writes "The New York Times has the sad story of Jack B. Palmer, an employee of Infosys, the giant Indian outsourcing firm. 17 months ago, Mr. Palmer made a quiet internal complaint that Infosys was committing visa fraud by bringing 'in 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.' Since making his complaint, Mr. Palmer '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.'"
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Whistleblower In Limbo After Reporting H-1B Visa Fraud At Infosys

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  • by crazyjj (2598719) * on Friday April 13, 2012 @03:53PM (#39678445)

    Jack B. Palmer first made a quiet complaint through internal channels at Infosys,

    Was he really naive enough to think that these were the actions of some rogue managers and that the company would be thrilled to have him put it all in writing? Did he expect them to send him a Thank You letter, beginning with "Thank you for putting this illegal activity, that we've been quietly doing for years under the table, into writing. We really appreciate that you've opened us up now to criminal liability and that your complaint will cost us a fortune. We're so glad that you did this instead of looking the other way and keeping your fucking mouth shut like everyone else in the company. Here's your bonus!"

    Dude, if you're going to be a whistleblower, accept that it means you have to burn that bridge. There is no going back across it and expecting everything to be the same afterwards. Being a whistleblower means making the right moral choice and then paying the price for it. Yeah that sucks--but what's new, huh? Jesus and Superman didn't fight the Romans and Lex Luther without expecting some backlash, you know.

    • by mbstone (457308) on Friday April 13, 2012 @04:01PM (#39678553)

      "Thank you for putting this illegal activity, that we've been quietly doing for years under the table, into writing. We really appreciate that you've opened us up now to criminal liability and that your complaint will cost us a fortune. We're so glad that you did this instead of looking the other way and keeping your fucking mouth shut like everyone else in the company. Here's your bonus!"

      He had to write it. Otherwise he would sue, and their lawyers would say, "Heavens to Betsy, who knew? Why didn't you tell us?"

    • by manoweb (1993306)
      Jesus fighting the Romans??? ...
      • by jesseck (942036) on Friday April 13, 2012 @04:05PM (#39678611)

        Jesus fighting the Romans??? ...

        The Roman Empire didn't fall on its own.

        • Neither did the British Empire, or the Incan empire, or the Japanese Empire, or the Russian Empire, or the Galactic empire. Man Jesus is awesome at killing empires!

          If you ever build something that might be called an empire, its probably safer to just call it a principality, lest Jesus kill it.

          • by couchslug (175151)

            Jesus is Entropy? Cool!

        • The Roman Empire didn't fall on its own.

          No, but they never taught us it was brought down by zombies!

      • by Chris Mattern (191822) on Friday April 13, 2012 @04:08PM (#39678661)

        Apparently the Romans *and* Lex Luthor. Good thing he had Superman on his side. Must've been one helluva team-up.

      • by mydn (195771)
        The only people Jesus fought were bankers. He whipped their ass!
      • by jellomizer (103300) on Friday April 13, 2012 @04:22PM (#39678845)

        A good portion of the world is Monotheistic, the majors religions that are not Monotheistic are not praying to Roman Gods.
        Jesus +1 Romans -1

        The reason why the Jewish people were really hoping for a Messiah to come was because their land has been taken over by Rome, and pressured to change religions to the Roman one. They didn't care much for it. Jesus came and according to Christianity and some sects of Judaism he was the Messiah however he didn't do it the way they thought so the Jewish people dishearten and basically had him killed.

        However most of Jesus teaching had a sharp tongue against the Priests who basically worked for the Romans and was allowed to be corrupted by them.

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Ironchew (1069966)

          A good portion of the world is Monotheistic, the majors religions that are not Monotheistic are not praying to Roman Gods.
          Jesus +1 Romans -1

          False cause. Jesus died centuries before Christianity was anything more than a persecuted cult. If anything, the Roman emperor Constantine I was more directly involved with saving Christianity from total obscurity.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by PRMan (959735)

            A good portion of the world is Monotheistic, the majors religions that are not Monotheistic are not praying to Roman Gods. Jesus +1 Romans -1

            False cause. Jesus died centuries before Christianity was anything more than a persecuted cult. If anything, the Roman emperor Constantine I was more directly involved with saving Christianity from total obscurity.

            Jesus died decades before Christianity was anything more than a persecuted cult. Ever hear of Nero?

      • by ZipK (1051658)

        Jesus fighting the Romans??? ...

        No - Jesus fought Lex Luther. Superman fought the Romans.

    • by rastilin (752802) on Friday April 13, 2012 @04:04PM (#39678599)

      Was he really naive enough to think that these were the actions of some rogue managers and that the company would be thrilled to have him put it all in writing? Did he expect them to send him a Thank You letter, beginning with "Thank you for putting this illegal activity, that we've been quietly doing for years under the table, into writing. We really appreciate that you've opened us up now to criminal liability and that your complaint will cost us a fortune. We're so glad that you did this instead of looking the other way and keeping your fucking mouth shut like everyone else in the company. Here's your bonus!"

      For one thing, no one's going to say "Yeah I expected they were totally going to shaft me for it because I always knew they were evil.".

      Personally I am surprised, there was still time for the company to go "my bad", pay a fine and just walk away. Once people start putting pressure on the whistleblower like they're in the mob or even something really stupid like death threats, the company has essentially made it impossible for themselves to back down. They're virtually guaranteeing that management will be criminally prosecuted and will probably go to jail for what will turn out to be a fairly small amount of money.

      • by cusco (717999) <brian.bixby@gmai l . c om> on Friday April 13, 2012 @05:54PM (#39680003)
        management will be criminally prosecuted

        Seriously? You apparently haven't been paying attention to world events for, oh, the last four decades or so. The only executives that ever go to jail are those who lose rich people's money. Tyson got caught, repeatedly, paying truckers $200/head to bring illegals from Mexico to work in their Arkansas chicken processing plants to avoid having to pay workers compensation claims (injured on the job? must be time to call Immigration!) Their penalty? A fine of about half the amount that they saved by abusing the mojados. IIRC, no one was even disciplined internally. Infosys won't even be banned from working US gov't contracts.
        • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 13, 2012 @06:46PM (#39680549)

          Its actually worse than you think.

          Why is John Corzine not in jail? He "lost" $600 million of investor money with no trace, yet there is a record of him transferring $200 million just days before it disappeared. Thats not the suprising part though. His firm had to comply with SOX regulations so money can't be transferred without someone's name being on it. In addition any lost investor money would be the sole responsibility, criminally as well, of the CEO who signed off on the SEC filings. They were apparently not SOX compliant. The BEST part of the story, Corzine was actually in the Senate when SOX was voted on and he voted yes.

          So you have someone who agreed with SOX rules, running an investment company not following the SOX rules, breaking the law, signing illegal statements, and he is not in jail. There isn't a more clear cut case of SOX violations possible and it was done by someone who agreed with SOX laws enough to vote on them.

          If they won't enforce the law on Corzine they should just drop it. Anyone in the future gets caught by it just brings up his case and the 14th Amendment and they should get off instantly.

    • by interval1066 (668936) on Friday April 13, 2012 @04:10PM (#39678697) Homepage Journal
      He wasn't really a whistleblwer. The action he took is described as a "quiet internal memo". The story only blew after 17 months of the company screwing with him. They should have thanked him, at least told him they were working on the situation, and left him alone, If they had taken that action, we probably would have never heard of it. Now, they come out smelling like garbage, he has a hell of a lawsuit he can throw at them, and all becuase they wanted to act like babies when some one told THEM that they were screwing up. I don't think naivete has anything to do with this.
    • by cpu6502 (1960974) on Friday April 13, 2012 @04:13PM (#39678743)

      Speaking of "whistleblowing" there's a law making the rounds through Congress that would make it illegal. If you are a government or corporate employee, you can only blow your whistle to internal "mediators". And if you get fired, you're not allowed to tell anyone why you were fired.

      I guess I shouldn't be surprised given Congresses' other recent actions (mandatory inurance purchase, the Protect IP Act, U.S.A. P.A.T.R.I.O.T. A.C.T., NDAA passage).

    • by Applekid (993327)

      Which is why we need strong whistleblower protections to encourage a decent culture where law is still important. You would think they would be right up there in the ladder of government protection with soldiers, police, firefighters, and paramedics.

    • by guttentag (313541)

      Jesus and Superman didn't fight the Romans and Lex Luther without expecting some backlash, you know.

      I was wondering what Christopher Reeve was up to these days. Glad to know he's still finding top-notch co-stars for his movies. Is that available through Netflix?

    • by Oswald (235719)

      Jesus and Superman didn't fight the Romans and Lex Luther without expecting some backlash, you know.

      Damn, I can't believe I missed that issue. I'll bet the story kicked ass. Who drew it?

  • by KrazyDave (2559307) <htcprog@gmail.com> on Friday April 13, 2012 @03:56PM (#39678479) Homepage
    They should just outsource his job - true poetic justice.
    • I don't know if that is poetic justice as I think that him trying to expose an illegal practice and unethical staff as being a source of injustice needing to be corrected via an apt or ironic punishment. Just saying.
  • by sethstorm (512897) on Friday April 13, 2012 @04:03PM (#39678583) Homepage

    "The New York Times has the sad story of Jack B. Palmer, an employee of Infosys, the giant Indian outsourcing firm. 17 months ago, Mr. Palmer made a quiet internal complaint that Infosys was committing visa fraud by bringing 'in 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.'

    Hopefully this is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to more of these kinds of things.

    Since making his complaint, Mr. Palmer '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.'"

    Isn't that something called retaliation? People that have a vested interest in moving work offshore really hate it when there is evidence that you're doing it based on fraud - especially fraud that exposes them for being against US citizens.

    If Infosys willing to do everything against this guy, he sure must have something damning enough to warrant death threats.

    • If Infosys willing to do everything against this guy, he sure must have something damning enough to warrant death threats.

      I was going to ask, how are death threats coming into this? It was short-sighted and foolish for the company to act against him through CIVIL means, but criminal means? To me, someone who has no legal or corporate experience, that sounds like some executives saying "Hey, don't just fine the company, send ME to jail too!"

      • I got the impression that it was other employees that were in the states on the wrong visas and had built a life here that were sending death threats, not random exec who is looking to save money.
  • by CHK6 (583097) on Friday April 13, 2012 @04:05PM (#39678609)
    So when do we get to hear about Jack B. Palmer vs. Infosys in a civil case of corporate harassment? I swear these companies are just plain stupid.
  • by TheSpoom (715771) <slashdot@@@uberm00...net> on Friday April 13, 2012 @04:06PM (#39678627) Homepage Journal

    How are they getting around it? Are these workers completely undocumented? Are they lying at the border? Did they not fill out I-9s? Because if they filled out I-9s, and those were looked at by USCIS, this sort of thing would be picked up pretty goddamn quick.

    Given the amount that I've personally spent on legal immigration, this pisses me off a little bit. I'm not exactly surprised, but it seems to be yet another case where breaking the law as an individual would have adverse consequences (e.g. in this case, where one would be banned from the United States between three years and indefinitely, depending on the overstay) while breaking the same law as a corporation is completely overlooked.

    • by cpu6502 (1960974) on Friday April 13, 2012 @04:28PM (#39678921)

      >>>Given the amount that I've personally spent on legal immigration, this pisses me off a little bit.

      Most legal immigrants feel exactly the same. Oftentimes the legal immigrants are the strongest supporters of blocking the illegals from coming in.

      • by jpate (1356395)
        [citation needed]
        • by Shados (741919)

          No need for a citation when its not a quantified statement really. "Often" can mean anything.

          As a legal green card holder, illegals also piss me off. I waited years to be in a position where I could apply and i'm freagin Canadian (there's treaties between the two countries to make it super easy for some people to just move in, but i wanted permanent resident, and besides, I didn't qualify).

          If there wasn't all the illegals to push aside, how hard do you think it would be for a senior software engineer marrie

          • by jpate (1356395)

            If there wasn't all the illegals to push aside, how hard do you think it would be for a senior software engineer married to an american citizen to just come in? I doubt i'd have had to even be either of those to do so.

            There are no quotas for spouses of American citizens. As a spouse (assuming you're in a heterosexual marriage), you can get an Immediate Relative visa after just the processing time for the visa, and immediately apply for an Adjustment of Status to become a permanent resident ("green-card holder"). While you wait for the Adjustment Of Status to process, you can get an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). From what I've read, the whole process takes between 6 months and a year, and you can work as soon a

    • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Friday April 13, 2012 @04:37PM (#39679033) Journal
      B-1 visas is the tourist visa. Typically you can stay in the country legally for some 4 months or 6 months once you enter. The duration is decided by the immigration officer depending on the purpose of the visit. Typically Indian seniors visiting their sons/daughters would ask for 4 or 6 months. Once you are in, you cant get a driver's license, you cant get a SSN, you are not supposed to work, you can't get a US pay through any US Bank. But if you actually show up for work with a jacket and a laptop and call yourself "contractor visiting from off shore site to provide close technical support" no one is going ask for the employment authorization. So you work, though you are not supposed to.

      Typically the visitor is employed in India and his/her Indian salary will continue to accrue in India. They give an expense account, which will be almost 40% of US salary. The workers usually live quite frugally and save it all and take it home. It is tax free in India because it is not really pay, just left over money in the expense account. Way back in 1980s when they offered such a deal to me, they were offering me 5000 Rs a month in India (twice the pay of a commissioned officer or as they call in India gazetted officer) and an expense account of $1800 a month. US starting salaries those days were around $36000 for an engineering undergrad.

      This has been going on for a long time. I know of people who came like on B1. I know people who applied for B-1, the embassy in India smelled a rat and got "banned from applying for USA for two years" stamped on their passports.

      Me, I came as F-1, struggled as PIGS (poor indian grad student) got H1-B then green card and then hurried to get my citizenship just in time to vote against Santorum in the senate election. woot!

      • I believe the visa in question is the B1/B2 visa. The visa is issued as B1, B2 or B1/B2. If it is B1 alone, it is a tourist visa. B2 is a business visa. B1/B2 includes both, but i believe you have to declare at the port of entry what the purpose of the travel is.
        B2 is not a tourist visa, but allows a visitor to negotiate contracts etc.(do business, not necessarily work) while in US and being on a foreign payroll. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B-2_visa#Uses_of_a_B1.2FB2_visa [wikipedia.org]
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Urban Garlic (447282)

      > Given the amount that I've personally spent on legal immigration, this pisses me off a little bit.

      You must have a nice, even temper. I'm also a legal immigrant to the US, and this stuff pisses me off a lot.

      I was an academic H1-B for a while, and got a pretty good view of the hoops that my host university had to go through to do it, so I understand about the hassle and expense referred to in the article. The consensus where I did this was that the regulatory burden was mostly due to the corporate histor

    • Because if they filled out I-9s, and those were looked at by USCIS, this sort of thing would be picked up pretty goddamn quick.

      If I'm not mistaken, no one ever looks at them unless they Feds come knocking.

      • by TheSpoom (715771)

        And I'm saying that for a gigantic foreign company like Infosys with such large amounts of visa-based employees, the feds should come knocking a hell of a lot more.

    • by CAIMLAS (41445)

      My guess is that part of the reason is that they're coming from India, and not places where English is well spoken natively. My understanding is that the less Western your country is, the less likely you are to actually be allowed in... see: massive immigration from North Africa; H1B vista'd Indians and Chinese.

  • Should have reported it anonymously through an ethics hotline the company may have or an anonymous email to people within or may be cc some people outside the company.

    • by cusco (717999)
      This is Infosys. If they had a hotline to report ethics violations it would be used to track down the violators and give them bonuses.
  • Not only costs (Score:4, Interesting)

    by legont (2570191) on Friday April 13, 2012 @04:40PM (#39679085)
    There is much bigger reason why companies don't want to obtain H1-B. While on work visa, it's relatively easy to find some other employer willing to take you on H1-B or even on adjustment of status to Green Card. On the other hand, somebody working on B1 can't look for another job at all - he can't claim experience because it is illegal. Makes nice slaves. It used to be popular in 90s, but in little shops.
    • by Alex Belits (437) *

      That's bullshit. I originally came to US on B-1 visa, and found an employer that sponsored H-1B. It was in 1993, and I was not on the level of bottom-of-the-barrel people that outsourcing companies love so much, but I was still a recent graduate with a few years of work experience, all of it outside US.

  • by shutdown -p now (807394) on Friday April 13, 2012 @04:52PM (#39679271) Journal

    The title says "H1-B visa fraud". But the fraud did not actually involve H1-B visas at all; it involved brining people in under B-1 ("business") visas - which do not permit working in U.S., but are for attending meetings, conferences and such - and then having them do actual work while in U.S. It is certainly a visa fraud, but its only relation to H1-B is that those people who were working have to be issued H1-B (or L-1, or one of several other types of visas permitting it) to work.

    Is that just shoddy writing, or a a cheap attempt to stir up the usual flamewar over H1-Bs "stealing our jobs"?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I can pretty confidently say any death threats can be outright ignored, as to threaten death would imply the ability to logically plan the act and then execute it properly.

  • For us who aren't familiar with this visa system, whom did Palmer do a service by calling attention to the situation?

    • by ahoffer0 (1372847)

      >whom did Palmer do a service by calling attention to the situation?

      Job-seekers with a legal right to work.

    • by cusco (717999)
      Probably himself primarily, his company secondarily. B-1 is a type of tourist visa, normally reserved for business people who are going to meetings, seminars or some such. They're not supposed to do any actual work. H1-B is a work permit, more difficult, time consuming and expensive to get. Palmer's duties included getting H1-B visas for people and he was apparently annoyed that some of his coworkers were circumventing the system with the B-1 process. They would show up as being more productive than hi
  • If Palmer's dad had given him this talk [youtube.com] he might have a career today.

    Obviously child protective services failed him.

  • by erroneus (253617) on Friday April 13, 2012 @06:36PM (#39680447) Homepage

    This is too much like a cockroach problem. Slashdotters have been complaining about these kinds of practices for a very long time. People need to befriend this whistle blower so he doesn't commit suicide or some violent crime. I get the feeling he was quite naive and believed he was doing "the right thing in the right way" and now he is paying the price with his physical and mental health. (If it was me, I'd be riding my bicycle and playing XBox games all day collecting a paycheck or finding other ways to enjoy the vacation... but maybe that's a stupid idea too for reasons I haven't yet considered.) I have dealt with some ugly situaitons in the past (though not quite as ugly as this) and I simply had to maintain my course and attitude through it all. I had to remember not to let "other parties" determine who I am and that I will not change who I am in response to anything anyone else does to me. I also had to keep my eyes on the horizon rather than focusing on "here and now."

    These companies like Infosys are scum. They want to play in the US market and make US dollars, but they don't want to play by US laws and are willing to commit criminal acts in the name of business. I hope people are imprisoned, deported and businesses get shut down. And before anyone makes claims about killing industries and all that nonsense, I just have to say it'll never happen. There is still a lot of money to be made in the software business even when playing by the rules and operating within the law. The only problem these fat, greedy, lazy Indian companies have is they don't want to SHARE the profits according to the law and according to any sense of fairness and respect.

  • by couchslug (175151) on Friday April 13, 2012 @07:53PM (#39681201)

    There should be a bounty system for whistleblowers to go straight to the government.

    Companies who do these things are the enemy, not to be warned before being struck down.

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