“I also provided Vivek an example about a conflict between Vivek and his relationship with Capgemini. Vivek raised his voice and shouted at me. Vivek thumped his fist into the table and yelled at me. Vivek said to me, ‘You are f…ing useless’, ‘you’re an investigator, go investigate’. I felt intimidated.”
Shoebridge continued, “At 10.15am 26 October 2016 I told GP [full name not disclosed] and MS [full name not disclosed] about this meeting with Vivek. I told them I felt intimidated and useless. GP told me that is the way Vivek treats all people.”
In another extract, he says: “On 27 October 2016 I again met with GP and told him my concerns about my meeting with Vivek from 26 October 2016. My notes of that meeting read, ‘f…ing useless’, ‘you are a f…ing manager, a senior leader’, ‘is it corrupt because I know the owner of Capgemini and I use them?’ I said at the very least a conflict must be disclosed. I told GP this and he replied, ‘he won’t report it and he will bring in whoever he wants to work at icare’.”
The author of the extract Chris McCann was the first whistleblower at icare to discover problems in the organisation and report them to senior management. He was a former homicide detective who earned valour awards and other commendations before moving to icare as a senior compliance officer.
“What did Mr McCann get for his troubles?” Shoebridge asked. “He got a workers’ compensation claim, he received appalling internal treatment, he was bullied out of the organisation and then wrapped up with a non‑disclosure agreement so that he could not tell anyone.”
McCann left icare in April 2018 and was diagnosed with severe depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Shoebridge went on to say, “This is an organisation that needs to be told by this Parliament, ‘this is not your money; you cannot treat it as playthings. You cannot give it to your wife, you cannot give it your mates. You cannot hand out public money that is meant to be going to injured workers to whoever you want because they are your mates.'”
In a statement Bhatia said he categorically denied making any such comments to McCann. “There was an independent investigation into this issue that found the claims were not substantiated,” he said.
Bhatia left icare in January 2018 to join QBE as the chief executive of its Australian operations.
On August 7 this year he left QBE to join Link as its chief executive. The timing was interesting as it came less than two weeks after a joint Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and ABC Four Corners investigation exposed management and solvency issues at his former employer icare.
On Friday The Australian Financial Review‘s columnist Joe Aston wrote, “Link Group’s board is chaired by Michael Carapiet who, until next Friday, is also chairman of icare… another company director, Peeyush Gupta, sits on the board of both Link Group and icare… and Bhatia told an Indian community newspaper on July 30 that at icare, ‘Michael and Piyush [sic] became mentors for life for me’.”
Aston’s column prompted Link to issue a statement to the ASX informing shareholders that Link’s outgoing boss John McMurtrie, would now leave on November 1, instead of early next year, and Bhatia would take over the reins on November 2.
But the ASX statement said McMurtrie would front Link’s annual general meeting on October 27, along with Carapiet and the rest of the board, and had agreed to stay on as an adviser to the business after his retirement.
It said Bhatia’s early commencement at Link followed an early release from the notice period with QBE, which itself has been subject to a scandal in recent weeks when its chief executive departed suddenly after an investigation concerning workplace communication did not meet the standards set out in the company’s code of ethics and conduct.
In recent weeks a number of companies have come under the blowtorch for questionable conduct including bullying, intimidation and discrimination. The way things are shaping up, there will be more to come.
Adele Ferguson is a Gold Walkley Award winning investigative journalist. She reports and comments on companies, markets and the economy.