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Infosys drama turns to personality clash as R Seshasayee hits back at Narayana Murthy

The Financial Express logo The Financial Express 01-09-2017 FE Online

While Infosys recovers from the deep wounds inflicted on it in the battle of values between its promoters and its former management and board members, the fight is still far from over; only it seems to be moving away from the company and turning into a personal clash between founder Narayana Murthy and former Chairman R Seshasayee.

Seshasayee, who resigned as the Chairman of the board of India's second-largest information technology services firm earlier last month upon the return of Nandan Nilekani -- one of the original founders -- to the company, released a statement today hitting back at Narayana Murthy.

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In the joint statement, alongwith two other board members John Etchemendy, and Jeffrey Lehman, who also resigned with him, Seshasayee called Narayana Murthy's campaign as vendetta and offensive. "I am at a loss to understand the motivations behind this persistent vendetta against me," Seshasayee said in the statement which follows an investor concall held by Narayana Murthy earlier this week in which he had again accused the board of not being transparent.

Complete coverage on Infosys row

It must be noted here that the Infosys' seven original founders and their families are minority shareholders in the company with no board or management position, except for the recent return of Nandan Nilekani as the Chairman. Narayana Murthy has been on a rampage against the Seshasayee, former board, and the former CEO Vishal Sikka, who recently quit the company after Murthy's increasing accusations over lapses in corporate governance at Infosys. Among other things, Narayana Murthy had raised questions on Infosys' $200-million acquisition of Panaya; the excessive severance given to former CFO Rajiv Bansal and former General Counsel; and quantum of salary hike promised for Vishal Sikka.

Seshasayee today said that he has refrained from making any public statements since his resignation, adding that it was offensive that Murthy is quoting from an anonymous whistleblower letter to make attacks on the board.

"I wish to categorically state that I have always been candid and truthful in all my statements concerning Infosys," Seshasayee said, adding, "To quote an anonymous whistleblower letter that alleged many things, which have subsequently been proved baseless and false through multiple investigations by highly respected counsel, in order to give an impression to the audience that I lied to the shareholders, is patently offensive."

Seshasayee further wrote that Narayana Murthy's campaign against the issues at the company is turning into personal attacks on him. "It is regrettable that Murthy's campaign on the alleged governance lapses has continually slipped into personal attacks and slander on individual board members," he said.

The prolonged tussle, all through which Vishal Sikka and former board members sought to placate the founders by trying to address their concerns, had the shareholders worried, especially after Vishal Sikka announced a surprise resignation, saying that he can't take it any more. The shares have since somewhat recovered after Nandan Nilekani was brought back to the company. Infosys shares were trading at Rs 919 on BSE today, up 0.4% from the previous close.

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