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R Seshasayee hits back at NR Narayana Murthy’s 'personal attacks and slander'

Seshasayee’s statement comes after Murthy gave a speech to Infosys’ investors on Tuesday and quoted an anonymous that said the former board chairman had lied to shareholders.

, ET Bureau|
Sep 02, 2017, 12.19 AM IST
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R Seshasayee said he previously stayed away from making public statements to help the company move forward but that Murthy’s speech to investors had forced his hand.
R Seshasayee said he previously stayed away from making public statements to help the company move forward but that Murthy’s speech to investors had forced his hand.
BENGALURU: R Seshasayee, former chairman of Infosys, said he had been ‘candid and truthful’ in all his statements and that founder NR Narayana Murthy’s campaign on alleged governance lapses at the IT company had ‘slipped into personal attacks and slander,’ in a statement released to the media on Friday.

This latest salvo, which also includes statements from Jeffrey Lehman and John Echtemendy — both of whom resigned from the board of Infosys last month — comes days after Murthy’s address to Infosys’ investors on the turmoil in the top ranks of India’s second-largest IT services firm.

Speaking to investors on Tuesday, Murthy quoted an anonymous whistleblower letter that said the former board chairman (Seshasayee) had lied to shareholders about payments made to former CFO Rajiv Bansal. In the same speech, Murthy had also said current board member Roopa Kudva had asked him (Murthy) to sign a non-disclosure agreement if he wished to receive details on the severance payment to Bansal.

“Mr Murthy’s statement to the investors reported by the press, however, forces me to issue this statement, which is done only to defend myself against personal attacks and patently false and slanderous accusations,” Seshasayee said.

Following the sudden resignation of CEO Vishal Sikka on August 18, four members of the board, including Seshasayee, stepped down from their posts. In a move designed to restore stability, the former CEO and Aadhaar architect Nandan Nilekani was appointed non-executive chairman of Infosys on August 25.

Seshasayee said he had previously stayed away from making public statements to help the company move forward but that Murthy’s speech to investors on Tuesday evening had forced his hand.

“The words that Mr. Murthy attributes to Jeff Lehman and Roopa Kudva, from their private conversation with him, are also egregiously taken out of context. It is regrettable that Mr. Murthy's campaign on the alleged governance lapses has continually slipped into personal attacks and slander on individual Board members,” he added.

Murthy and Infosys did not reply to email queries from ET about Seshasayee’s statement.

Seshasayee’s strong rebuttal comes at a time when the 36-year-old company is still recovering from months of attrition over charges of lapses of corporate governance levelled by Murthy. The issues of contention include the outsize severance package for Bansal as well as the terms of acquisition of Israeli software company Panaya by Infosys in February 2015.

After Sikka quit on August 18, the then board of Infosys put out a statement criticising Murthy.

“I am fully conversant with the details of the Rajiv Bansal issue and I can categorically state that at no point did Sesh say anything in public or, to the best of my knowledge, in private that was untrue or did not reflect the collective view of the Board,” John Echtemendy, former director of Infosys, said in the statement on Friday. He stepped down from the board of the company last month.

Jeffrey Lehman, who served on the board of Infosys for 11 years and who has personally come under fire from Murthy, also backed Seshasayee. “An anonymous, so-called “whistleblower” made outrageous charges against management; the Board engaged several sets of outside counsel and investigators of impeccable reputation, and those investigators determined that every charge was false and without any foundation.

For the good of Infosys, I wish Mr. Murthy would stop quoting those lies as if they were reputable,” Lehman said.

He added that Murthy should stop his attacks against other board members. Murthy had said the rejuvenation of Infosys’ board was still a work-in-progress.

“For the good of Infosys, I wish Mr. Murthy would stop defaming Mr. Seshasayee and the other members of a Board who have served with dedication and integrity, who have turned the other cheek when slandered, and who have acted only in the best interests of the company,” Lehman added.

In his latest salvo, Seshasayee said that Murthy had praised him as ‘man of high integrity’ as late as February 2017 and that he was at a loss to understand the founder’s motivation.

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