How HR head Abhishek Mishra paid the price for being a whistleblower

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Here is the story of a brave HR professional, who stood by his people, fought against PF evasion at MW High Tech Projects India, and paid a hefty price.

HR professionals have often been accused of taking sides with the organisation. Yes, one may argue that it is HR’s job to safeguard the organisation’s interest. But does the same rule apply when the organisation is involved in some illegal and unethical activities? Should you be party to it? Fighting against the system requires guts. It’s easier said than done.

Here is the story of a brave HR professional who dared to go against the organisation and paid the price for it.

Abhishek Mishra, 36, joined MW High Tech Projects India, a subsidiary of German engineering and construction company, M+W Group GmbH, in March 2016 as head of HR for India, with additional responsibilities for Asia.

Two weeks into the job, when a PF official came to check on the requisite papers and details, this MBA from Cornell Johnson Graduate School of Management discovered certain anomalies in the PF deposits. At first he thought these were minor deviations and sought help from the senior management so that he could give a satisfactory answer to the PF official. To his surprise, he was bluntly asked to stay away from the entire episode.

Mishra delved deeper and discovered several other malpractices. “I learnt that workers were not being paid the minimum wage, and also that the Company had been evading depositing PF money and that the quantum of PF evasion was running up to a few hundreds of crores of rupees. In addition, the Company had not been filing its balance sheets for the last few years,” Mishra shares with HRKatha.

Two weeks into the job, Mishra discovered certain anomalies in the PF deposits. When he contacted the senior management, to his surprise, he was bluntly asked to stay away from the entire episode.

“I did try to explain it to the management that the anomalies were huge and it couldn’t be kept under wraps, as sooner or later they are bound to be caught,” Mishra explains.

Following this, he wrote several mails to the top management but there was no reply to any of them.

“Finally, when I threatened to inform the enforcement authorities, they offered me a huge sum of money to keep my mouth shut,” Mishra says.

“I was told – ‘You Indians are up for sale, quote your price’,” shares Mishra

“I refused to budge and reported the same to the government regulatory authorities,” he adds.

In addition, the Company wanted to make scapegoats out of a few employees, and asked Mishra to force them to quit. Mishra refused to succumb to the pressure. Instead, he stood by these employees and questioned the management on these employees’ role in the entire episode because the ultimate beneficiary in evading tax and PF money was the Company and not these individuals.

Finally, he was terminated from the job. Mishra fought back and approached the Labour Court, which found that the termination was illegal. Though he was officially reinstated, the Company found ways to keep him at bay.

To probe allegations of PF evasion pertaining to hundreds of employees of MW High Tech Projects, the Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO), set up a four-member commission of inquiry in Hyderabad, late last year.

The Company wanted to make scapegoats out of a few employees, and asked Mishra to force them to quit. Mishra refused to succumb to the pressure. Instead, he stood by these employees and questioned the management on these employees’ role in the entire episode because the ultimate beneficiary in evading tax and PF money was the Company and not these individuals.

“Normally, we do not appoint any inquiry committee into the charges of PF violations by companies. But in this case, the magnitude of evasion is said to be very high— to the extent of ?150 crore. Hence, we appointed a commission of inquiry, headed by an assistant commissioner and three enforcement officers, to probe into the company records. We shall complete the investigation at the earliest,” said Bhola Chandrasekhar, regional PF commissioner in Hyderabad to HT.

However, Mishra’s estimate is that the quantum of PF evasion will be in surplus of Rs 400 crore.

Mishra alleges that he has been forced to remain under cover since then as not only were the lives of his family members threatened, but he too was threatened with being implicated in false cases.

I learnt that workers were not being paid the minimum wage, and also that the Company had been evading depositing PF money and that the quantum of PF evasion was running up to a few hundreds of crores of rupees. In addition, the Company had not been filing its balance sheets for the last few years.

Mishra left the company in August 2016 and is now ready to take his next assignment with an organisation of ethics. He is confident that there will be several organisations that seek people like him. His family has been extending unprecedented support in this long battle.

Ask him what inspired him to take such a bold step, and Mishra asserts that he wanted to be on the right side and do what was ethical and what was expected of him as the HR head.

HR Katha tried contacting the India MD, Anil Chanana and India compliance head, Vikas Pareek at MW High Tech Projects, but there was no response to the mail. While the M+W Group’s official website earlier mentioned a list of its projects in India, the Company has taken off all details related to its work here after regulatory authorities started probing violations. Mishra alleges the Company is in the process of winding up its India operations.

Mishra concludes, “I just want to spread this message that it’s not difficult to fight back when you are truthful and honest. At the Labour Court, the Company hired a battery of 10 lawyers, and I, without the money power or any legal assistance still won the case.”

Do we need many more like Abhishek Mishra? No doubt!

88 COMMENTS

  1. I guess he has done the right thing, and I am sure that he will be well placed soon. My best wishes to him and we surely need more HRs of this sort.
    I Appreciate and Respect.

  2. I am happy to see person like him in this world , as HR we have to keep quite in lots of issues though we know its not right and I am one among the victim as Mishra, but the bold stand he has taken will always give him the great blessings and recognition for the good step that he has taken, as we know that in this world there is only one truth .i.e. GOD and who ever does the right he is GOD himself.
    Good luck to you bro!

  3. Mr Abhishek has exhibited high degree of integrity and performed his duty within his value system. My all good wishes with him.
    we surely need such assertive managers but it may not so easy.

  4. These trends of the Companies not adhering to Statutory Regulations is very common amongst Indian Companies. And the fact is that they get away with the Crime is because the Government Officials are corrupt & hence take underhand cuts & allow the case to go by. Unfortunately, we in HR too are worried about our job & hence only keep trying to tell the Senior Management politely but nothing happens. Who would risk his job? But yes, to safeguard our interests in future, we do document the same on mail…..

  5. Companies who are scared to hire someone with such high ethics n integrity, must be scared themselves. I hope Indian companies do the right thing and hire him right away

  6. It’s surprising that a multi-national company resorted to such unethical practices. Usually they stick rules and follow compliance strictly as laid down in their code of conduct. May be, the local management did this without the knowledge of the head quarter. The real issue is, what does this young professional do now? Very few companies will be willing to hire him, and if at all it happens, it will be at a “discounted price”. As reported in the article, Abhishek’s fear for himself and his family are not totally unfounded. The company, on the other hand, will hire another HR Manager, will pay some fine in instalments, and will continue to do business. Hence, the loser is Abhishek, unfortunately, because of our system. Hence, the question asked at the end of the article “do we need….” has an affirmative answer, but who is going to protect such lads from the “system”?

  7. I salute ppl like abhishek mishra I have not come across anyone like him. I too lost my job at Piramal Reality for being honest and truthful but the HR did not stand by me.

  8. Dear Fellow HR colleagues,

    I am Abhishek Mishra. I initiated this because of two main reasons :
    1st : I got to know that several people died in an accident and bodies were disposed illegally. I have given certain evidences to CBI.

    2nd : Certain people told me that ” You all INDIANS are up on sale, quote your price. I returned back to India as I wanted to give back to my country, this was in no way acceptable to me.

    These two things were trigger for the long battle. In June 2017 company sent it’s management to meet me from across the world to buy me out again and if not then passing on life threat.

    Thankfully neither 50 crores nor life threat could deter me.
    Now company is intending to wind up Indian operations.

    We all have that ability to stand for our ethics and Pride of country. Let’s keep going .
    With regards
    Abhishek

  9. Well done, Mr Abhishek Mishra. HR professionals like you actually boost the value of HR by standing for what you believe as your Values system. Thereby commanding due respect from all the stake holders including Employees, Employers, Government Officials…

  10. Kudos Abhishek for your Valour and standing for Truth/rights of people. You will be inspiration for the people to stand against wrong practices
    Its no less than a battle standing against a multinational, people at various levels, Departments and knowing how things work with govt/ authorities and also knowing the consequences.
    Wish you a very best

  11. Dear Fellow HR colleagues,

    I have also faced similar situation in my last job. It is an infrastructure Company, had not remitted PF n ESIC for few years. This led to notices under 7A under the Act (PF). Some how I managed the show and had taken some time from the authorities to pay the liabilities. I fought with management for the payment but they did not pay. Instead I got onto bad book of the management. Very soon there was Director’s arrest warrant from the authorities. That too handled very efficiently. Even thereafter Mgmnt was not ready to pay. Instead of liability payment, they started harrasssing me by making various allegations. Then in frustration I had resigned from there.

  12. Hats off young man for sticking your neck out for the genuine cause of workmen and exposing the dubious practices followed by such unscrupulous organisations. I am sure you would become a good example in all Business Schools and thereby enable / encourage more young HR people to become bolder and forthright.
    God bless you.

  13. As an HR Manager, one should work for the human resources of the organisation, but many HR managers do function for the Managers only and for the Employees. But at the same time, they become hand-in-glove with the top managers and management of the organisation to get their piece of cake. Such managers only survive by changing their colours like a chameleon

  14. I was working as assistant compliance manager in one of the EPC companies in Noida, India. In one of the internal audits, I found that this company is in clear violation of FCPA & PCA. I took the matter to the chief compliance officer and the management. They assured me of action but didnt budge. I was kept in dark about the proceedings. After sometimes I was asked to leave with a 6 month severance on the pretext of cost cutting. Now I am jobless since 1 year.

  15. I have worked with Abhishek and know the high integrity of this professional HR leader. Nothing makes me both prouder to have worked alongside him and sad to think he’s had to go through this. Any company would be lucky to work with you Abhishek. You have become an amazing professional!

  16. Past from one & half years (Aug 2016) myself has also facing similar embarrassing situation due to honest n loyal in my job with MNC company (Eversendai Const) at their Mumbai Project n management sans any reason retrenched my services, despite having 24+ years vast exp in HR/Admin as Dy . Manager with various Construction industry across India . Currently based in Hyderabad and desperately searching for opportunity. But no humanity found with anyone for being a honest.

  17. The moment i started to read the article, i was sure that the company must be from Hyderabad, and by the time i delved deeper, it actually came out to be true.
    A good number of companies based in Hyderabad are a part of this a similar practices.

  18. Mr Junius
    Hope, your comments does not sound complementary by any law abiding citizens of any nationalities.
    It appears, parliament is an only place to practice truth and it permits others to silently succumb to all in lieu of an MNCs check.
    Such understanding of Mr Genius and other like minded members of HR katha portal may also blame the liberalisation of labour laws in India as an attempt to compromise with compliance to welcome MNCs.
    Abhishek is neither an end nor a beginning.
    Mr Genius and Mr Abhishek have always existed in all ages presentating individuals dimension…. though class apart !!
    However, we are left open to judge on
    Mr Genius and that of Mr Abhishek as an individual or a philosophy of self governance..
    While I do not intend to check on the liberty and freedom ion of Mr Genius,
    Yet I could not resist to wish Abhishek
    Fly Mr Abhishek Mishra , fly high !!
    Rgds
    Jagannath Prasad
    Head – HR
    BEMl, KGF, Bangalore, India

  19. Congratulations Sir. I was in a similar circumstance. Unfortunately I didn’t win my case against the 10 lawyers and barristers employed by the state. I haven’t given up my fight or my cause….to ensure that my unfortunate set of circumstances never happen again in an Australian workplace. Still a long way to go for me, however you story has been an inspiration and strengthened by resolve to continue to fight for justice. “Justice delayed is justice denied.”

  20. Hi
    My name is Ajit menon and I am the group HR head of Dalmia Bharat group. How can I contact Abhishek. My no: is 8527566777

  21. Hi Everyone,
    I came across this post in LinkedIn and i was a previous employee of that company. This is one of the Fraud that was going on. But the company used to be involved in several other frauds dating back to its old Managing Director named Saravanan Ayaluchamy. They have pocketed several millions along with the Help of the Finance head Ananda Raj. They were also involved in Income Tax frauds (They Bribed the Income Tax Officer and got TDS certificate for which they never paid)
    Shameless fraudsters.

  22. Very brave move indeed Mr. Mishra. Hats off. I guess people would atleast through such cases change their perception towards HR.

    Manager – HR
    Proteus Technologies
    Mumbai

  23. Mr.Abhishek,
    Sir, you have shown that you, never left the path of truth and honesty,although pressures were on you.
    Proud of you, proud to be INDIAN.

  24. Hello Mr. Abhishek,

    Having 23 years of experience, I feel that in 90% of the cases, Indians are the biggest enemy of an Indian. Your achievement will be remembered by lots of people. At the same time, what you have achieved is phenomenon. You can’t measure this in terms of money. So keep up the spirit.

  25. Same is the story of my ex employer “Wind World India Ltd” they deducted pf and tds but haven’t paid to the Govt since 2014

  26. Hatts of to You Abhishek. I can understand the difficult time you had since the beginning of this Journey.. However, the truth is on your side and so you are bound to win.. Best of luck…. Proud of You.. 🙂

  27. He is a Great Warrior!!! We need to learn from him and be honest in every act of ours, irrespective of the consequences. You are an inspiration to many……

  28. You Indians are up for sale, quote your price’,”, what an image do we project at the international arena of business practices? Highly shameful to read this sentence.
    Abhishek, it is appreciable that you are painting a different picture right now. Truth alone triumphs…keep it on and on…

  29. MNCs boast of hr policies and models of organisational productivity and excellence in home countries

    – what happens when they set up business in host countries, the Maruti example of killed GM-hr and mismanagement of industrial relations not listening to the needs of the contract workmen, paying them much less for regular work, ignored and condoned by our labour machinery too.

    Does our management eco-system promote such courage of conviction except for paying lip-service during hr interviews. Doing award winning CSR with lower sensitivity towards exemplary people management and people leadership.

    Unfortunate indeed, may be employers associations need to look into these aspects of business management, and exclude companies known for mal labor labor-law practices and non-compliances.

    Such firms-organisations need be excluded from being awarded business excellence or any sort of Awards by Industry Associations etc the likes of CII, ASSOCHAM, FICCI, CHAMBERS OF COMMERCE, MANBAGEMENT ASSOCIATIONS, PRODUCTIVITY AND QUALITY COUNCILS, ISO 9000 etc

    Hope the Sabka Saath-Sabka Vikas and Make in India lobby is listening carefully while moving towards labor reforms, taking suo-moto notice in such cases.

    May be HR Katha could circulate such stories to the appropriate state and central authorities and expose such grave non-compliances, with equal courage of conviction, including social and electronic media.

    Will hr fraternity and enlightened employers as good citizens provide the gentleman with alternate dignified job, upholding the value of good governance and need for compliance.

    Hope this Mahabharat Katha becomes part of HR Katha folklore, differentiating between good and evil, in praise of brave Arjuna, leading to offer of Arjuna Award by the hr and employer’s fraternity.

    best regards.

  30. Admire Abhishek Mishra’s ethical stand- which very few would do; considering the history of whistle blowers fate in India. May be he can consider writing to German ministry of Corporate Affairs to highlight malpractices. #suhaskatti

  31. Dear Abhishek,
    I am very very proud of you and can understand the ordeal which you have faced. Not just MNC’s but Indian organizations too devise ways of eroding taxes…many just not follow the complainces…it is indeed a very bold step which you have taken. Kudos to you…Do let me know if you need any help !! God always help people who are on the right side.. All the best

  32. I wonder…should a METOO campaign be launched, how many HR execs would have equivalent incidents to report about unethical demands made by Company Officers. I am pesonally aware of such an incident, where the HR person was fired after decades of service, for refusing to force an employee, suffering the symptoms of a debilitating desease, to resign in order to avoid paying the disability pension. Instead, the HR exec helped the employee secure said benefits and was immediately sacked.

  33. This is an unverified story and very far from reality. I am surprised to see an HR portal publishing stories without verifying them. This is highly unprofessional.

    FYI, this gentleman has been asked to leave M+W following strong evidence of his involvement of ethical issues and breach of the Code of Conduct of M+W.

  34. Yes there is no dearth of honest officers I Dr. Dewakar Goel Executive director HR Airports authority of india and director indian Aviation academy MOCA govt of india retired on 30 November 2017 I can boost feel proud of opening recruitment scandal cancelled appointments of 800 executives and won legal battle upto supreme court referred bogus agency scandal to CBI when they refused got FIR filed with police . Never succumbed to pressures in 30 years career with govt. Got bogus agency blacklisted introduced GATE started on line exams making syllabus fir all discipline a long story but happy to be a gardner who removed dirty seeds and sown quality seeds you can find 2000 across country yes I am proud of saying my branding .. all these came with frequent transfers enquiries bogus cases . But still I reached to top level . Honesty is best policy still come what may …today I am invited abroad as ICAO expert and now opening new Academy in india to run ICAO courses here . Happy to learn above story this I did in the begining of career in pvt. Sector left because couldn’t tolerate unfair labour practices .. now I am Advocate also very soon you all will see me with PIL

  35. Good job Mr. mishra, I as a journalist appreciate your work and thoughts for the people u have in you,this is a long battle to fight and I am with you in this fight,

  36. I wish someday Franchise India management is caught for cheating it’s employees by deducting their PF without giving any relevant details to it’s employees as to where the money is going.

    This company has given false promises to it’s clients as well and has duped lakhs of rupees.

  37. As a people, we need to question ourselves. There have been several instances where leaders in MNC’s India operations have taken not only the employees but also their principals in Global management for a ride, creating a bad name for India as an investment destination, despite huge talent. Kudos to Abhishek.

  38. Proud of you Abhishek! It’s your honesty and integrity which will pay you rich dividends. Keep the good work up and make all Indians proud. Let these Multi national companies know that all Indians can not be purchased.

  39. To Vikrant,

    Where do you work. Can you please connect with me separately.
    I have certain evidences on Bribe given to Govt officials and case of killings of people on construction site.

  40. Dear Mr. Abhishek,

    I am sure all of us will clap / appreciate for the stands you have taken against the illegal process. How many we really gets inspire & Do? Few of us will think & then give up thinking why alone should be odd or few of us will congratulate & ignore. But yes few might be having a daring or values which you have shown, but they need support. Can you or anyone or HR Katha create a forum wherein such like minded people should come together and fight with the illegal practices. Once others know that such kind of Forum exist, many people will get into this.

  41. Well done Abhishek.I feel very proud of you. If your confidence and honestly is with you then nothing is impossible as Mr Abhishek already proved this. Best of luck for your bright future.

  42. Loved the response to offer of bribery to Abhishek , ” You Indians can be sold ” …
    Plus Abhishek vs Battery of 10 lawyers….

    Motivated to do the right thing…

  43. Honesty always pays.

    HR Heads should always take care of staff then their own benefits.

    When you are true to yourself then you are most happiest person.

  44. Thats a true inspiration for being an HR professional. But it is also the fact that sometime HR do fall prey to such management in supporting the ongoing illegal activities within the Org. I am sure, there will be many more Org still practicing such activities on the name of Cost Saving Strategy.

  45. Mr Mishra’ very few Tigers are left in Indian sub- continent now. Bravo we salute your guts to take up a fight against your Management…Rgds Sandeep Patnaik

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