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Monday, April 22, 2019
Visa case: Former US employee of Infosys files an appeal for review in California court

A former Infosys employee in the US, whose lawsuit against the company for alleged visa fraud was thrown out last month, has now filed a notice of appeal at the District Court of California. A notice of appeal is filed to review a case.

According to filings in, a non-profit legal search engine, a federal court judge in San Jose in March left the door open for Carl Krawitt — who had filed the lawsuit — to submit an amended complaint if he wished to, after dismissing his case. Krawitt had alleged in his case that Infosys had conspired to bring in Indian employees on B-1 business visas as trainers for a six-week programme at Apple though, as per legal requirements, they could only be brought on H-1B visas, which are tougher to get.

An official statement from Infosys is awaited. The company has three days to counter the notice.

Krawitt, who earlier worked with Infosys as a contractor, is understood to have made the case as a whistleblower and on behalf of the federal government. The San Jose court dismissed the case under the False Claims Act. Earlier, the California court cleared Infosys and Apple of wrongdoing, saying a trainer’s work under B-1 visa was acceptable and that neither firm had attempted to commit a fraud.

Apple claimed that there was no case to establish that this was done with intent.

This allegation is similar to ones made in the past, most notably by Jay Palmer, another former employee who first blew the whistle on Infosys. Palmer had alleged visa-related abuses, which triggered a US Federal government investigation. Eventually, the case got dismissed by federal judge Myron H Thompson.

Visa denials
According to recent United States US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) data, Infosys topped H-1B visa denials in FY18, ending September 2018, with more than 25 per cent of its 8,000-plus applications rejected.

Further, according to a CARE ratings report, the top five tech companies suffered a 49 per cent drop in H-1B petitions being approved in FY2018 compared to the previous fiscal. (Source: The Hindu BusinessLine)

DPIIT examining comments on draft e-commerce policy

The Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) has started analysing comments and suggestions received from stakeholders on the draft national e-commerce policy. Sources said the DPIIT does not intend to extend the deadline that ended on Friday for sending comments on the draft policy. Earlier, on the request of stakeholders, the department had extended the deadline from March 9 to March 29.

The process of formulation of the final policy may wait till the new government assumes charge as it requires approval of the Union cabinet.

Earlier this month, the department had held consultations with stakeholders on the policy, wherein participants had raised the demand for a separate policy on data-related issues.

The draft policy has laid out conditions for businesses regarding collection or processing of sensitive data locally and storing it abroad. Besides, it has suggested fixing a three-year period for the industry to adjust to the data storage requirement of the country with a view to developing infrastructure for promoting digital economy.

These proposal has not gone well with certain foreign technology firms as they do not want to store data in India.

The 41-page draft talks about six broad issues of the e-commerce ecosystem — data, infrastructure development, e-commerce marketplaces, regulatory issues, stimulating domestic digital economy and export promotion through e-commerce (Source: The Hindu BusinessLine)

Telecom Department Asks States Not To Disconnect Power To BSNL Installations

L&T set to seal Mindtree deal with Café Coffee Day founder VG Siddhartha Recently, DoT helped BSNL in clearing its salary bill for February after the PSU found it hard to pay up on its own from its service revenues. In a grim situation underlining the hard-financial pressure on state-run operators, the Department of Telecom (DoT) has requested the state governments not to disconnect electric connections of BSNL/MTNL telecom installations and more so during the coming general elections.

In letters to the state chief secretaries, the Department said: "BSNL is facing financial stress due to hyper competitive telecom scenario and there is a slight delay in paying electricity charges to the state electricity boards.

"The issue of financial support to BSNL is being handled separately by the Department of Telecom. Due to this delay, State Electricity Board is resorting to disconnection of electricity connection at various key installations providing telecom services to election machinery and many other important government agencies hampering telecom services."

The DoT communication added: "Moreover, most of the BSNL/MTNL installations are providing strategic telecom services for the election machinery. "In view of the situation, please issue directions to state electricity board of your state not to resort to the unpleasant action of disconnection of electricity at vital telecom installations of BSNL across the state at least during the period of current election process."

Recently, DoT helped BSNL in clearing its salary bill for February after the PSU (public sector undertaking) found it hard to pay up on its own from its service revenues.

The department had released pending dues of Rs. 171 crore to cash-strapped MTNL for paying February salaries to employees.

The DoT also gave a letter of comfort of Rs. 3,500 crores to working capital requirement of BSNL. (Source: NDTV)

Vodafone CEO raises embarrassing issues for govt: Will Trai ever get it right?

Vodafone CEO raises embarrassing issues for govt: Will Trai ever get it right?Instead of asking Trai for an explanation when it was pulled up so often by the country’s courts, the government reappointed the Trai chief after his term ended. Given how RJio is grabbing market share so aggressively, it is easy to dismiss Vodafone Global CEO Nick Read’s comments on the telecom regulator’s (Trai) decisions hurting all telcos except RJio as typical of a loser. But it is not just Read, Trai is accused of bias by the appellate tribunal (TDSAT) and the Supreme Court. And telecom’s highest policy-making body, the Telecom Commission (TC), has also found fault with Trai on many occasions; TC has asked Trai to explain how it reached the conclusions it had on spectrum pricing—the higher the reserve price, the more it hits telcos who are not as cash-rich as RJio—but Trai refused to do so.

One of the issues raised by the older telcos was Trai’s sharp 57% cut in IUC levies. While Trai had justified this by arguing that newer-generation networks—like RJio’s—had lower termination costs, this made little sense since India had legacy networks as well. While the telcos’ challenge to this is pending before various courts, what is amazing is that Trai never even shared its costing model with the telcos. How can a regulator be so opaque? At another point, Trai suggested heavy penalties for call drops and, a month later, it came up with a technical paper that explained why telcos weren’t entirely responsible for the call drops! When SC ruled on this, it said “a legislatively pre-determined penalty, without fault or loss being established … (is) manifestly arbitrary and unreasonable’; it went on to say ‘(Trai) must respond in a reasoned manner to (comments) that raise significant problems, to explain how the agency resolved any significant problems raised by the comments, and to show how that resolution led the agency to the ultimate rule… including a rational connection between the facts it found and the choices it made”.

In 2016, Trai recommended a `3,050 crore penalty on telcos for not providing enough Points of Interconnection (PoI) for RJio. TC pointed out that telcos had 90 days to provide PoIs and had done so within this period. Trai later came up with a consultation on whether a 90-day period for providing interconnection was too long. An internal committee of TC has come out against the penalty—which is why no decision has been taken on the penalty for so many years—making it clear even the government is not convinced Trai is right. And when Trai was examining the issue of predatory pricing, it said a telco must have a market share of at least 30% to be even investigated for predatory-pricing. While ruling on this, TDSAT said Trai’s definition of significant market power (SMP) showed “a degree of pre-determination to dilute the entire concept of SMP”, it was “arbitrary without any deliberation and effective consultation”, that it was “not backed by any intelligible and objective criterion nor any convincing reason” and so was “an extreme step and unnecessary abdication of its regulatory powers by TRAI”. TDSAT went on to add, that the Trai’s ruling provided “artificial protection to a TSP (telecom service provider) who may have the capability and intent to destabilise the sector through predatory-pricing”. Instead of asking Trai for an explanation when it was pulled up so often by the country’s courts, the government reappointed the Trai chief after his term ended. And, yet, telcos are expected to consider Trai a neutral umpire. (Source: Financial Express)

Huawei CFO sues Canada for wrongful detention

Huawei CFO sues Canada for wrongful detention Meng Wanzhou claims that her constitutional rights were breached and is seeking damages The Huawei Technologies Co. chief financial officer whose detention in Canada has sparked a diplomatic standoff has filed a civil lawsuit against Canadian authorities, alleging she was wrongfully detained and searched. Meng Wanzhou claims that her constitutional rights were breached and is seeking damages for an ordeal she says amounted to false imprisonment. The suit was filed on March 1 in the Supreme Court of British Columbia against the Canadian Border Services Agency, a Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer and the Canadian government.

The notice alleges that the police officer and several border guards detained, searched and interrogated Meng under the guise of a routine customs or immigration case, and used that opportunity to unlawfully compel her to provide evidence and information. It alleges they did so without immediately arresting her under the warrant to avoid affording Meng her constitutional rights.

Instead, according to the complaint, the officers detained the Huawei CFO on the jetway December 1 as she was getting off a flight, took away two phones, an iPad and a computer, then got her to surrender the passwords to those devices. She was formally arrested only about three hours after her initial detention, the claim says.

The claim was filed the same day Canada’s government agreed to proceed to an extradition hearing at the request of the US, which alleges Meng lied to banks to trick them into processing transactions for Huawei that potentially violated Iran trade sanctions. The complaint comes as Chinas largest tech company is increasingly playing offense to counter accusations it aids Beijing in espionage - something its always denied. In recent weeks, senior executives have taken shots at Americas own surveillance efforts, invited foreign media to speak with its reclusive founder, and even tweeted directly at Donald Trump.

Demands Release
China has accused Canada of abetting a political persecution against Huawei and has demanded the release of Meng, daughter of billionaire company founder Ren Zhengfei. History shows that if Canada follows the letter of its law, Meng will likely eventually be extradited. Meanwhile, Trump has muddied the legal waters with conflicting statements on whether he might try to intervene in what’s supposed to be an independent law enforcement operation in order to boost a China trade deal.

Canada’s justice department referred requests to the border services agency, which declined to comment Sunday. On March 6, Meng is scheduled to appear in a Vancouver court, which will likely set the date for her first hearing in the extradition case.

Phone Devices
Meng was arrested in Vancouver after getting off a Cathay Pacific flight from Hong Kong, while on her way to Mexico. The claim alleges the Chinese telecom executive was not informed promptly of the reasons for her detention, nor given an opportunity to contact a lawyer.

The officials unlawfully opened and viewed the contents of the seized devices in violation of the plaintiffs right to privacy and also performed a thorough, invasive and focused search of all of the plaintiffs luggage, the claim alleges. It says that officials interrogated her over two sessions.

The police officer intentionally delayed the arrest for the purpose of allowing the unlawful detention in Vancouver under the false pretense of a routine border check, it alleges.

The claim states that Meng’s rights under Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms were violated. Meng, who remains under house arrest in Vancouver, suffered mental distress, anxiety and loss of liberty, it says. The claim seeks declarations that her Charter rights were infringed, various damages and costs, all unspecified. (Source: The Hindu Business Line)

Amazon’s deep bench calms investors despite Bezo's scandal NYC rift

Amazon’s deep bench calms investors despite Bezo's scandal NYC rift Amazon still has more than 100 million Prime members, whose subscription fees make them more loyal to the company because they can capitalize on shipping discounts. Its been a rough few weeks for the worlds wealthiest man.’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Jeff Bezo’s announced his divorce.

He became engulfed in a tabloid scandal complete with blackmail allegations. On Thursday, his company abruptly scrapped plans to invest $2.5 billion and hire 25,000 people for a giant new office in New York City (NYC).

Yet investors don’t seem to be spooked just yet. Strip out Bezo’s and Amazon from the headlines and the stories are more mundane. A 25-year marriage ends. A publicly subsidized office park deal falls apart. A rich guy accuses someone of blackmailing him with embarrassing photos. Amazon still has more than 100 million Prime members, whose subscription fees make them more loyal to the company because they can capitalize on shipping discounts. It has fast-growing cloud computing and advertising businesses that have made the company increasingly profitable. Even if Bezo’s gets distracted, the e-commerce giant has a deep bench of executives who oversee day-to-day operations in the shadow of their boss. Most notable are cloud chief Andy Jassy and retail chief Jeff Wilke, who were promoted to division CEO roles almost three years ago.

They have got a deep management team, said RJ Hottovy, a senior analyst. Jeff Wilke and Andy Jassy keep the business running pretty smoothly at this point, even though they might not get the credit.

Bezo’s, 55, who founded the company in his Seattle garage in 1994, remains the key visionary and the public face of Amazon. The company’s growth has forced the notoriously detail-oriented CEO to delegate more day-to-day operations. That also frees Bezos up for side endeavors like his space exploration company, Blue Origin, and the Washington Post, which he purchased in 2013.

Jassy, 51, shadowed Bezos earlier in his career as one of the CEO’s technology advisers. He runs Amazon Web Services (AWS), the cloud-computing group. In a company full of semi-autonomous units, AWS is its own universe, with its own set of technologists, sales representatives and marketing people focused on the fast-growing business of renting processing power and software services.

Since his elevation to CEO, Jassy has raised his public profile and amassed the clout to break some of Amazons rules. The company preaches an obsessive focus on customers with little public regard to its competitors. Yet Jassy trades barbs on Twitter and the conference circuit with Oracle Corp Chairman Larry Ellison. His leadership is working well for AWS. If it was an independent business, AWS would likely rank among the worlds largest technology companies. It had revenue of $25.7 billion in 2018, up 47 per cent from the previous year.

Wilke, 52, who joined Amazon nearly 20 years ago, oversees global retail operations, which includes the company’s online marketplace and delivery system, Amazon Prime membership and a growing physical store presence, including Whole Foods supermarkets and AmazonGo cashierless stores. Beyond the United States (US), where Amazon makes most of its revenue, Wilke is in charge of a global expansion that includes new consumer markets such as India, Australia and Brazil. Like Jassy, Wilke has also become more visible as a company representative in public. He participated in discussions with New York officials regarding the company’s now abandoned expansion plans.

Other notable long-time Amazon executives include Dave Limp, whose role as senior vice president of devices includes expanding the line of gadgets running on Amazons Alexa voice-activated platform; Jeff Blackburn, senior vice president of business development, and Dave Clark, senior vice president of operations, who will help build out Amazons new hub in Nashville, Tennessee, where the company plans to hire as many as 5,000 people. Some investors and analysts think Amazons decision to pull out of New York City may have lasting effect. Not expanding there will hurt Amazons recruiting efforts, especially in advertising, said Tom Forte, an analyst at DA Davidson & Co.

Since Bezo’s announced his divorce in early January, the company’s shares have declined 2.9 per cent, missing Wall Streets early 2019 rally. The S&P 500 has jumped 6.9 per cent during the same time. (Source: The Hindu BusinessLine)

After snub from Twitter CEO, house panel considering sending a "strong" message

After snub from Twitter CEO, house panel considering sending a Parliamentary standing committee to explore tough action against company for not sending CEO to its meeting. The parliamentary standing committee on information technology is exploring ways of expressing its frustration, including declaring breach of privilege, at being unable to get Twitter CEO Jack Dorseyor his secondin-command to attend its hearing on Monday, said people with knowledge of the matter. This may include sending a “strong” recommendation to the government seeking adverse action, they said. The committee will decide what “action” can be taken against Twitter, they added.

The panel had summoned representatives of Twitter and the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology to be present before it on Monday at 3 pm to examine the issue of “safeguarding citizens’ rights on social media/online news platforms”.

Twitter said it wouldn’t be able to get Dorsey, who was recently in India, to the country on time.

“Given the short notice of the hearing, we informed the committee that it would not be possible for senior officials from Twitter to travel from the United States to appear on Monday,” Twitter had said on Saturday. “Our CEO, Jack Dorsey, and other senior Twitter executives visited India in recent weeks because it is an important market for Twitter and we value the growing interest in Twitter in India.”

BJP lawmaker Anurag Thakur, who heads the panel, told ET, “The committee decided to call the head of Twitter because it felt it should interact with the person who could be held responsible for actions of the company rather than people who do not have powers for any policy making or enforcement.” The panel members have taken strong exception to Twitter seeking to defer the “interaction” to March-April, said sources.

“They are fully aware that nobody will be available during that time because of the crucial Lok Sabha elections,” said a government official.

The committee had initially decided to hold the interaction on February 7 and it was pushed to February 11 to give Twitter more time, said another member of the committee.

“But even 10 days’ time seems to be short notice for them (Twitter). This only shows that they are shying away from their responsibility and perhaps have a lot to hide. They must be mindful of the fact that the committee, if push comes to shove, can go to any lengths to ensure accountability,” he said. “This is perhaps happening for the first time that someone does not have the time for an established institution of Parliament. They appear to be running away from their responsibility.”

The panel chose to call Dorsey or his deputy because of a communication from Twitter on February 7.

“The letter clearly indicated that the Indian representatives (of Twitter) do not have the authority to frame policy or its enforcement,” said a member of the committee who didn’t want to be named. “The committee, thus, felt it futile to interact with such representatives and decided to interact with the company’s CEO or his deputy.”

The panel has a track record on taking up matters of public interest, he said. “It needs to be appreciated that it took a parliamentary panel to set the ball rolling on a debate on net neutrality in Parliament, something which was latched on to by the public three months later,” he said.

“In the instant case, the parliamentary committee wants to debate on the rising false propaganda on Twitter, which is not only influencing mainstream media but is also influencing opinions of people.”

When asked about allegations of trolls being on the payroll of political parties, the member of the committee cited above said, “It is not about ideology or individuals. It is about who shoulders the responsibility for allowing false propaganda to be peddled in the garb of opinion. If a fake handle of the Indian Army is being made (on Twitter) and lies are being spread, somebody has to be held accountable. Twitter cannot be allowed to be misused on the pretext that it is a platform to discuss ideas.”

On Saturday, Twitter said: “We appreciate and respect the committee’s focus on the issue of user safety and user rights… we have indicated that we are willing to participate in such a broad hearing process.”

In its previous reply on February 7, Twitter had said, “No one who engages publicly for Twitter India makes enforcement decisions with respect to our rules for content or accounts in India.(Source: Economic Times)

Poland could limit use of Huawei products after worker arrested

Poland could limit use of Huawei products after worker arrestedPoland could consider banning the use of Huawei products by public bodies, a senior government official said on Sunday, following the arrest of a Chinese Huawei official in the east European country last week. The Polish government could also look to tighten legislation to allow the authorities to limit the availability of products made by any company deemed to pose a threat to security. Poland arrested a Chinese employee of Huawei and a former Polish security official on spying allegations, officials and sources told Reuters on Friday, a move that could fuel Western security concerns about the telecoms equipment maker.

A government official who is responsible for cyber security told Reuters “abrupt” policy changes towards Huawei were not warranted after the arrests. But he said the use of the company's products by state entities could be reviewed.

“We will analyse whether...our decision can include an end to the use...of Huawei products,” Karol Okonski told Reuters. “We do not have the legal means to force private companies or citizens to stop using any IT company's products. It cannot be ruled out that we will consider legislative changes that would allow such a move,” he added.

A spokesman for Poland's security services said on Friday the Polish official arrested by the country's Internal Security Agency (ISA) had been responsible for issuing security certificates for equipment used by public administration. “(He) used to work for a number of public institutions, held important managerial positions and was also connected with...institutions that protect internal security,” he told public broadcaster TVP.

Seeking to distance itself from the incident, Huawei said on Saturday it had sacked its employee, adding his “alleged actions have no relation to the company”.

Increasing scrutiny
Huawei, the world's biggest producer of telecommunications equipment, faces intense scrutiny in the West over its relationship with China's government and US-led allegations that its devices could be used by Beijing for spying.

No evidence has been produced publicly and the firm has repeatedly denied the accusations, but several Western countries have restricted Huawei's access to their markets.

Poland's Internal Affairs Minister, Joachim Brudzinski, called for the European Union and NATO to work on a joint position over whether to exclude Huawei from their markets. “We are examining the readiness of the (EU and NATO) countries to work on a joint position,” Okonski told Reuters referring to the new generation of 5G telecoms infrastructure. (Source: The HindubusinessLine)

COAI wants single audit to meet requirements of multiple agencies

COAI wants single audit to meet requirements of multiple agenciesCOAI’s views come at a time when the telecom department is in the process of appointing at least 4-5 auditors to conduct the planned special audit of private telecom companies for period 2011-12 to 2017-18

Ahead of the planned special audit of telecom operators, industry body COAI has favoured a single audit exercise that meets the requirements of multiple stakeholders like the telecom department and sector regulator Trai. “The DoT is entitled to do audits and we can’t argue with that. But can we get to a point where a single audit exercise is conducted by one entity that is agreed to by all parties as competent, to do detailed checks required by various stakeholders like CAG, telecom department and Trai,” Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) Director General Rajan Mathews told PTI.

Mathews said the authorities that require audits to be conducted can spell out their requirements and the details they need, to the firm selected from the pre-qualified list. The firm that audits can then issue reports based on the individual specifications of various agencies that require such audits to be conducted.

“Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai), for instance, requires billing audit to be conducted and that ties also into the revenues (revenue aspect is something that government’s audit will dwell into as well) ...these are inter-twined issues and a single audit makes sense,” Mathews said. He noted that under the current dispensation, Trai for the purpose of audit of billing systems has a list of pre-qualified auditors which operators can choose from.

COAI’s views come at a time when the telecom department is in the process of appointing at least 4-5 auditors to conduct the planned special audit of private telecom companies for period 2011-12 to 2017-18.

The bids are expected to be submitted by December 18 by interested auditors that are empanelled under Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG), and the appointment is likely to take place by the month-end, an official familiar with the entire process had told PTI earlier.

The Department of Telecom (DoT)-initiated audit will be carried out to check for any under-reporting of revenue by telecom companies, and is expected to be wrapped up by middle of next year.

Audits will be conducted for all large private telecom companies as also those which have announced an exit or are in the process of merging with bigger rivals. In all likelihood, the work on auditing will start from January.

Telecom service providers pay licence fees and spectrum usage charges to the government on the basis of their income.

The telecom sector has been bruised by falling tariffs, eroding profitability, and mounting debt in the face of stiff competition triggered by disruptive offerings by Reliance Jio, owned by Mukesh Ambani. The industry has been seeking urgent relief measures entailing debt restructuring, cut in levies, and release of GST input tax credit locked up with the government.

Reflecting the financial stress of the industry, the gross revenue of telcos and licence fee paid to the government declined by around 10 per cent to Rs 58,401 crore and Rs 2,929 crore, respectively, in April-June 2018 compared to the year-ago period, according to recent data by Trai.

“Gross revenue (GR) and adjusted gross revenue (AGR) of the telecom service sector for the quarter ended June 2018 has been Rs 58,401 crore and Rs 36,552 crore, respectively,” Trai had said in its Indian Telecom Services Performance Indicator report released in October this year.

The year-on-year fall of 8.11 per cent in AGR -- which is revenue earned from sale of telecom services alone -- led to decline in licence fees paid to the government by around 10 per cent to Rs 2,929 crore. (Source: Mint)

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