Infosys row: Chorus grows for Seshasayee’s exit, Nandan Nilekani’s entry

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If Seshasayee does resign, then a shake-up of the board is certain, the first three people added. All of them requested anonymity.

“There will be sweeping changes on the board,” said one of the three.

Mint could not immediately ascertain which board members would quit if Seshasayee resigns, but over the past six months, Murthy has called for the resignations of Jeffrey Sean Lehman, who is the head of the nominations and remunerations committee, and Roopa Kudva, who heads the audit committee. Lehman, who has served on the Infosys board for over a decade now, is in any case unlikely to ask for a renewal of his term, which ends in 2018.

“Investors’ confidence in the board is at an all-time low, and they want blood,” said Phil Fersht, CEO of US-based HfS Research, an outsourcing research firm. “Seshasayee is likely to take the fall for the whole Sikka debacle and the rushed Panaya acquisition. I also expect Roopa Kudva and Jeff Lehman to follow him out.”

Mint reported earlier on Wednesday that large institutional investors, proxy advisory firms, brokerages, top executives at the company and some of the company’s 200,000-odd employees have questioned the board on its decision to release a six-page note blaming Murthy for Sikka’s resignation. On Wednesday, some domestic institutional investors and former employees of Infosys called for Nilekani’s return to the company.

Investors’ confidence in the board is at an all-time low, and they want blood…. Seshasayee is likely to take the fall for the whole Sikka debacle and the rushed Panaya acquisition. I also expect Roopa Kudva and Jeff Lehman to follow him out.
– Phil Fersht, CEO of YS-based HfS Research
Since the company released the letter blaming Murthy, he and the other founders have spoken to a number of large institutional investors of Infosys and have gone about garnering support for a potential showdown with the board.

Murthy, who was supposed to address investors on Wednesday, postponed the meeting to next week after being taken unwell, according to two more people aware of the developments.

“The company does not have any further updates to share at this point of time. In case there are any developments we will inform the media in due course. We will not be making any comments on speculation and rumours,” said the spokeswoman.

This is not, however, the first time that Seshasayee has faced pressure to resign. Over the past six months, Murthy himself has called for Seshasayee’s resignation several times for what he has perceived as serious breaches of corporate governance, based primarily on the board’s handling of the Panaya acquisition and its subsequent investigation and its now-infamous decision to pay a Rs17.38-crore severance to former CFO Rajiv Bansal.

For his part, Seshasayee himself has conceded that he has come close to resigning from his position as chairman of Infosys over the past 18 months but said that he didn’t think that would have solved the problem.

On Wednesday, Infosys shares rose 1.98% to close at Rs894.50, even as the benchmark index Sensex rose 0.88%, or 276.16 points, to close at 31,568.01. The shares have fallen 12.40% since Friday morning.