I opened the mail yesterday and found a check from one of those Indian outsourcing companies, you know the massive, Indian-controlled placement organizations that take jobs from American workers and then exploit the H-1Bs that they have imported from India to be programmers.
It was from Satyam Computer Services Ltd.
This is one of the big outfits in the field; the “my visa job” website says that Satyam sought 5,824 labor condition applications in the years 2011-2013, making it the 14th largest user of H-1B workers in the nation. Seeking an LCA is the first step in the H-1B process; often firms will file for more LCAs than they actually utilize.
Was Satyam — a firm that has been faced with serious financial mismanagement charges both in India and the United States — trying to bribe me? Was it trying to get me to stop writing about abuses in the H-1B program?
Well, no. But it was seeking to make amends for some of its evil deeds in the past.
You see, I have a managed brokerage account, in which the brokers decide what to buy and sell, and I have no say in the manner, though they tell me what they are doing. Some years ago they bought me some shares in Satyam — more fools they — thinking that it would be a good investment.
This is a quote from the resulting settlement brought on by the stockholders’ class action suit, something that I suspect I was told about a couple of years ago and promptly forgot. Satyam and an associated company had to pony up $150 million to reach the settlement, and I got a crumb of that.
The check was for $64.39 and presumably was one of tens of thousands that Satyam was forced to write. Such checks cover a small fraction of the claimed losses; the really big money in this field goes to the lawyers who find out about the violations and take the cases to court. These suits, however, are usually settled and never reach a courtroom, though a judge looks over the agreement.
The whole business is both ironic and sad. I am not an American worker who lost a job because of these people, nor am I a badly treated H-1B on, or formerly on, their payroll. But I get a little economic relief, and these other people do not.
But owners of stock, apparently, have rights in our system that mere workers lack.
Two other notes about all this:
First, when I Googled Satyam the first item I found was from Wikipedia:
The Satyam Computer Services scandal was a corporate scandal that occurred in India in 2009 where chairman Ramalinga Raju confessed that the company’s accounts had been falsified. The Global corporate community was shocked and scandalised when the chairman of Satyam, Ramalinga Raju resigned on 7 January 2009 and confessed that he had manipulated the accounts by US$1.47-Billion.
Neither that huge corporate failing nor the stockholders’ suit has apparently damaged Satyam’s ability to get H-1B visas from our government.
Second, the dean of HB-1 critics, professor Norman Matloff of UC-Davis, has often written that we should not single out the Indian outsourcing firms for their records; arguing that they are no more or less guilty than the Microsofts and Googles of the world. The basic problem is the nature of the law, not how it is used by specific employers. See, for instance, this article.
I basically agree with Matloff’s emphasis on the actual legislation itself, but the little check from the big, bad company screamed for attention.
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