Wipro files complaint against ex-US staffer who joined Cognizant

Indian IT major Wipro has filed a complaint against a former senior executive for violation of a non-compete clause in his employment contract by joining Wipro’s direct competitor Cognizant before August this year.

In its complaint, Wipro said Mohd Haque, who quit in June this year, had agreed to certain restrictions on his post-employment activities, including prohibition of work for a small set of Wipro competitors including Cognizant, for 12 months after his employment ended. Upon Haque’s promotion to the role of Wipro’s senior vice president (SVP) and localisation as a US employee, he was eligible to receive more than $1 million in equity awards over many years, said the complaint filed in a US court.

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“Haque began violating his non-competition covenants by working for one of these few prohibited companies, Cognizant Technology Solutions Corporation, on or about August 1, 2023… Haque took every opportunity to hide from Wipro his upcoming employment with Cognizant and gain an unfair advantage over Wipro upon joining,” Wipro said in the complaint reviewed by ET.

In the development first reported by TOI, Wipro also alleged that Haque was in possession of confidential information whereby he uploaded and emailed “seven files” containing confidential information from his personal Gmail account on or about June 20, 2023, that was flagged off by its IT team on June 22. “Shortly before his resignation was to be effective, Haque surreptitiously uploaded multiple Wipro files and sent them outside Wipro to his personal email account. Haque also misrepresented his intentions to Wipro on multiple occasions, untruthfully telling the company that he was not planning to work at Cognizant,” the complaint said.

US-headquartered Cognizant competes directly with Wipro in the digital healthcare services field in which Haque worked for many years while at Wipro.

A Wipro spokesperson said, “Wipro does not comment on matters that are sub-judice”. Haque could not be immediately reached for comment while Cognizant did not respond till press time.

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Wipro’s counsel sent Haque a letter on September 29, 2023 reminding him of his contractual obligations to Wipro and the consequences for his breaches. Wipro has demanded a jury trial.Haque joined Wipro in 2010 as vice president (VP) of enterprise application services in Bengaluru.

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Formerly with PwC and Genpact, Haque has spent over 27 years in the ecosystem and was promoted last year as senior VP and sector head for healthcare and medical devices based in the US and was also leading Inclusion and Diversity Council for Wipro Americas. He was managing a team of 21,000 people responsible for P&L, sales, strategy, delivery, consulting and account management.

As per the agreement, Haque agreed that he would “be liable to pay Wipro” the value of American depositary shares (ADSs) or public sector undertakings (PSUs), as applicable, which would be computed by multiplying the total number of ADSs or PSUs awarded by the share price on the date of the particular award.

Wipro alleged that Haque has neither repaid Wipro the remuneration he received during the last 12 months of his employment, nor the value of the ADS and PSU awards.

The developments also come amidst a slew of senior-level executives resigning from Wipro over the past 12 months at a time when the IT sector is witnessing one of its slowest growth fiscal year, staring at a bleak outlook for FY24 ending March.