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Hypocrisy and connections help IT outsourcing firms

Patrick Thibodeau | Nov. 14, 2014
The liberal group Center for American Progress (CAP) advocates restricting the use of H-1B visas by offshore outsourcing firms to get offshore firms to hire more U.S. workers and curb their ability to move jobs offshore.

Efforts to reach Browner through CAP, which also runs the ThinkProgress website, were unsuccessful. CAP, asked about the conflict between its H-1B policy recommendations and Browner's Infosys connection, said Browner's other activities were her own business.

"Our policy outcomes are driven by our research and our commitment to doing what is right, and are not in any way influenced by the connections of any of our board members," a CAP spokesman saidin an emailed statement. Browner's bio on CAP lists her membership on the League of Conservation Voters board; the agribusiness firm Bunge Limited; who membership on the board of directors for the Global Ocean Commission, an advocacy group; and on utility software vendor Opower's advisory board. Her role at Infosys is not listed.

Browner's annual compensation as a board of director of Infosys has not yet been made public, but Fudge's compensation at Infosys for fiscal year that ended in March was $165,000.

India fights U.S. visa moves

The Indian government labels efforts by the U.S. to restrict H-1B and L-1 visas as protectionism. When Infosys was being investigated in 2011 for visa fraud, there was concern in India that the Infosys investigation could trigger limits on visas.

These concerns were raised in a question to Robert Blake, an assistant secretary at the U.S. State Department, at a press conference on trade in June 2011 in Kolkata, India. Blake was asked about the potential impact of the Infosys investigation on U.S. and India trade relations.

"That will be, I think, a sort of momentary blip," said Blake, according a U.S. transcript. "Infosys itself is obviously a very well-known company and will continue to be a very important partner for a wide range of American companies."

In the same month Black spoke about Infosys to the Indian media, Infosys announced that Fudge would become a director of Infosys. Six months later, in December 2011, Fudge was appointed to a two-year term to the State Department's Foreign Affairs Policy Board. The newly created 25-member group was formed "to discuss issues of high priority" and provide "insights, perspective, and ideas," to the department and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Fudge's connection to Infosys was noted in the department's official bio for her.

In 2013, Infosys agreed to pay the U.S. $34 million in a civil settlement "based on allegations of systemic visa fraud and abuse of immigration processes," the U.S. said in announcing the settlement. The case concerned the use of B-1 business visitor visas for work that typically requires an H-1B visa.

That settlement was the largest ever in a case of this type, but just a bump in the road for Infosys, which has more than 160,000 employees and annual revenue of $8.53 billion.

 

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