Wipro's stunning silence over death of an employee

The IT giant had reportedly admitted that one of its employees committed suicide after the company caught him embezzling $4 million in December. However, till date no criminal charges have been filed against the employee.

It has been over two months since the body of 26-year-old Anup Kumar Agarwal was recovered from railway tracks between Byappanahalli and Krishnarajapuram stations. Mr Agarwal was working with IT giant Wipro Ltd as an assistant manager in the finance department.

According to media reports, Mr Agarwal committed suicide shortly after the company caught him embezzling $4 million (about Rs18 crore) from its account. Last week, Wipro had said it was conducting internal investigations into alleged fraud by the employee who had gained access to a colleague's online password, and had embezzled funds for over a year.

The entire team of six employees that worked with Mr Agarwal has been sacked for negligence, said a news report.

Wipro had managed to recover around 50% of the embezzled amount and was not sure whether to file charges in the case. However, there is a stunning silence over the whole episode and netizens are raising questions over the company's responsibility.

From the limited facts narrated in the newspapers, it appears that the offence is made out at least under Section 379 of the India Penal Code (IPC) and Section 66 of the Information Technology Act, 2000. Depending upon the facts to be revealed in this case, Section 381 IPC (Theft by clerk or servant of property in possession of master) may perhaps also be invoked and there could also possibly be a forgery-related offence. "However, none of these offences is covered in the legal obligations cast on members of the general public under Section 39 of the Criminal Penal Code, to report the offence to the police. Therefore, it may be difficult to hold Wipro legally responsible for not reporting the matter to the police, its moral obligation notwithstanding," said a legal expert.

Wipro officials were not immediately available for comments. We are not sure whether by not reporting the matter to the authorities, the company was trying to recover its money or shield its employee and reputation.

"The issue of non-reporting of such a matter to the police may perhaps be stretched and called an act of 'mismanagement', more so if a mala fide intention to save the employee (or the like) could be attributed to the management," said the legal expert.

According to a PTI report, the police had said that Mr Agarwal has committed suicide, and his wife had given a statement in writing that her husband was going through financial problems and was worried and hence had resorted to the extreme step.

The post-mortem report said he had died of shock and haemorrhage and had suffered multiple fractures.

DC Rajappa, Railway SP, Bangalore, told PTI that Wipro had so far neither registered any complaint with the Railway Police nor asked for a probe. On the next course of action, he said no complaint was filed until now and the police will act on receiving one.

However, the death of Mr Agarwal and Wipro's silence over the period has once again raised questions about corporate governance procedures, especially after the Satyam fiasco.

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    1 decade ago

    I would call the investigation independent only if the CFO, Suresh Senapathy is also subject to the investigation. A company like Wipro, is no different from Satyam from a risk profile standpoint since it is largely a founder-owned company. Since the Chairman owns nearly 80% of the company, it barely operates like a true publicly owned company, and most decisions are taken like its a mom and pop shop. I sometimes wonder if the employee in question was merely a scape-goat, and if Suresh Senapathy himself was shepherding this, and setting aside funds for questionable transactions that cannot be recorded in the books (read as "bribe"). Was this Wipro's way of generating "black money"? I hope there is a class-action suit by the shareholders (atleast in the US) and the CFO is held accountable for this lapse, and made to resign! We don't want scapegoats, but we want to see the senior leadership team held accountable.

    K B Patil

    1 decade ago

    If this is the attitude of a 'respected' company like Wipro, one can well imagine the state of affairs in other companies. Most company managements in India, behave like emperors and not as trustees of shareholders.

    Is the commercial realty sector reviving?

    According to some industry experts, commercial real-estate prices in India have started stabilising and rentals are also rising; but others disagree.

    Commercial real estate, which was in the doldrums over the past year, is on a gradual recovery path, claim industry analysts. They expect prices to stabilise by March 2010 and then witness an uptrend in the April-June 2010 quarter.

    “The results of this quarter (December 2009) indicate that with improving economic conditions in India, the commercial property market is also getting fortified and moving closer to stabilisation. Tenant demand has been improving gradually over the past two quarters and confidence about future rental activity is also quite positive,” said Sachin Sandhir, managing director and country head, RICS India.

    “There has been a rise in the number of (customer) enquiries in February compared to the earlier situation. It is not as bad as it was, but that does not mean that rents will go up and occupancy levels will increase. Interest is building up, but gradually, “said Pranay Vakil, chairman, Knight Frank.

    However, a few industry experts point out that non-resident Indians (NRIs), who are a major factor driving property prices, are not ready to pay more than the prevailing prices. Consumers are still negotiating to bring down prices, although not as aggressively as earlier. They also say that vested interests are painting an over-optimistic picture of the market conditions in collaboration with the media.

    “Commercial real-estate will at least take a year to revive. I feel prices won’t go up during this period. A sentiment of optimism is being created by players who have lined up their initial public offers (IPOs) in the coming months,” said Pankaj Kapoor, founder of real-estate research firm Liases and Foras Vishal Gupta, vice-president, project advisory and structured finance, SBI Capital Markets, echoed the same opinion. “Commercial real-estate prices are not going to move up for some time. There will be lower supply in the short term and prices of office space are currently sustainable. Banks are also not keen on financing commercial projects.”

     “Rental declines have more or less stagnated but the amount of space available and in the pipeline will keep rental increases in check, barring industrial space where there is comparatively lesser available space. The modest rise in capital values across sectors is also encouraging,” said Mr Sandhir of RICS India.

    According to a survey conducted by RICS, investor purchasing has increased by approximately 20% in industrial spaces and 35% in office spaces, but is still down by 10% in the retail segment. Between April and June 2010, the availability of office space will increase by around 50% in retail, 10% in the industrial segment and 55% in office space.

    “We don’t see an upward movement in prices in the next eight to nine months. On a country-wide scale, the supply of new projects has doubled compared to last year, and the demand increased by 15% last quarter.  In Mumbai, there is almost 50% over-supply of commercial real estate,” said Raja Kaushal, executive director & chief operating officer, BNP Paribas Real Estate.

    He added, “South Mumbai will soon be flooded by 12 lakh sq ft commercial space. There will be a lot of options available for customers. By June 2010, 10 million sq ft of developed commercial space will hit the market and another 5 million sq ft will be available by December 2010.” This will also create downward pressure on rentals.

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    Sideways move in action

    Indian markets struggled to stay in the green ahead of the Union Budget 2010-2011 and on the back of Maruti’s slump

    Indian markets remained highly volatile throughout the day as investors remained highly cautious ahead of the Union Budget 2010-2011 and as index heavyweight Maruti Suzuki slumped. The Sensex gained 49 points from the previous day’s close, ending the day at 16,286; and the Nifty closed at 4,870, up 14 points.

    The market is expected to remain highly volatile this week with the focus being on the derivatives expiry on Thursday, 25 February 2010. Rollover in Nifty futures from February 2010 series to March 2010 series was about 29% at the end of Monday’s trading. Rollover in Mini Nifty futures was also at the same level. We expect the market to stay sideways tomorrow.

    At 12:00 hrs IST, the Sensex was trading 77 points higher from the previous day’s close at 16,314. However, at 14:00 hrs IST, the Sensex was trading at 16,274, up 37 points.

    At the end of the day, Maruti Suzuki fell more than 3% after the company said it has recalled 1 lakh A-star cars to fix fuel-leakage problems.

    Firstobject Technologies has signed an agreement for an incubation centre at the STPI in Kakinada, Andhra Pradesh, on lease basis. The stock was down 5%.
    Steel Strips Wheels informed the stock exchanges that Renault, one of the largest manufacturers of cars in Europe and a leading manufacturer of light commercial vehicles, has nominated Steel Strips as a key supplier for High Tech Steer Wheel Rims for one of its new vehicles to be launched in early 2011. However, the stock was down 1%.

    Tata Communications has announced that Tyco Telecommunications will be constructing the TGN Gulf cable system. The stock was up 1%.

    CNI Research is planning to enter e-broking and distribution of insurance products through alliance partners. The stock was down 2%.

    GEI Industrial Systems has bagged two orders amounting to Rs140 crore for Air Cooled Vacuum Steam Condenser from Shree Power Ltd (a subsidiary of Shree Cements Ltd) and Jaypee Group. The stock shot up 5%.

    EdServ Softsystems has signed a letter of intent (LoI) to acquire Hyderabad-based SchoolMATE [School Management At Ease], a CRM and ERP software solution provider for schools. The stock fell 1%.

    Religare Enterprises was up 2% after the company approved a proposal to invest up to $1 billion for acquiring a controlling stake in Northgate Capital LLC, USA and Northgate Capital, UK.

    Kalpataru Power Transmission was down 2%. The board of the company has approved plans to raise up to $125 million through a QIP or some other route to support the future growth plans of the company.

    The follow-on public offer of Rural Electrification Corporation (REC) was finally subscribed 3.12 times on the last day of the bidding for the issue today, as per data available on the NSE’s website.

    Meanwhile, junior finance minister SS Palanimanickam said that the government has so far raised Rs12,740 crore from selling stakes in state-run companies since May 2009. The government raised Rs8,516 crore in six years to March 2009, he added.

    In between, reports citing joint secretary Sidhartha Pradhan indicated that the government will not defer plans to sell stakes in State-run firms despite the poor market response to stake sales in state-run firms REC and NTPC.

    The Railway Budget will be unveiled tomorrow, followed by tabling of the Economic Survey on 25th February 2010 and the Union Budget on 26th February.

    As per media reports, railway minister Mamata Banerjee is expected to present a populist budget, leaving passenger fares untouched, and rationalise freight rates of certain commodities like iron ore, coal and cement. She is unlikely to tinker with the freight rates of essential commodities, including foodgrains.

    During the day, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee said that the government will continue measures to tame inflation in the financial year ending March 2011.

    During the day, Asia’s key benchmark indices in Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan rose between 0.11%-1.09%. However, China and Japan fell 0.69% and 0.47%, respectively.

    On Monday 22 February 2010, in the US markets, the Dow Jones Industrial Average declined 19 points while the S&P500 and the Nasdaq Composite slipped one point and two points, respectively.

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