A salesman who helped Wipro, India's largest outsourcing firm, win the "mother of all outsourcing deals" to supply IT services to Shell is suing the firm for unpaid commission on the deal.
Paul van den Berg, a business development manager at Wipro Limited in the UK between July 2003 and February 2005, is suing Wipro Ltd, the firm's UK arm, for breach of contract to get what he says is unpaid commission of at least £1m on a deal estimated to be worth in excess of $200m.
His solicitor, Hanna Weber of Zimmers Law, said his commission could be worth upwards of £3m since the value of the contract might now be worth as much as $500m.
His claim against Wipro Ltd, filed with the High Court in London, stated that the exact amount of commission owed couldn't be known until full details of the deal were released.
The claim states that Wipro had lured van den Berg from his job at rival outsourcer Infosys, where he had been doing business with Royal Dutch Shell Plc since 1984.
Wipro offered "significantly more lucrative payment terms in particular in relation to commission" because it valued van den Berg's relationship with Shell, it said.
Van den Berg's claim is also made against Mr Kees ten Nijenhuis, who as a vice president of Wipro Europe had offered the salesman a 1.25 per cent commission, it said. The terms were agreed in part verbally with Nijenhuis and top Wipro executive Sudip Nandy, but did not all find their way onto paper.
van den Berg persistently complained that his commission had failed to materialise. The claim said he complained to Wipro chairman Azim Premji about it.
Wipro's defence, filed at the High Court on its behalf by Timothy Pitt-Payne of PWC Legal, denies that it lured van den Berg from Infosys with the offer of a lucrative commission.
It said van den Berg approached Nijenhuis for a job with the suggestion that he could help Wipro win the Shell account. It said that during interviews, Nijenhuis had explained that Wipro's salespeople got incentive payments on top of their salaries, but that human resources would settle the details.
Documents submitted by the defence say that during van den Berg's interviews, Wipro had noted that he worked at Infosys and had good contacts at Shell.
Wipro says it offered van den Berg an index-linked €100,000 salary, a €40,000 sales incentive made "in accordance with the [Wipro's] Sales Incentive Scheme", and medical and car allowances. It denied Wipro offered a 1.25 per cent commission.
"There was no agreement whatsoever between the parties in respect of renumeration (whether by salary, bonus, or otherwise) save as set out in the contract dated 21 June 2003," said the defence.
Van den Berg's contract of employment with Wipro, also submitted by the defence, confirmed the basic salary and €40,000 bonus.
The Sales Incentive Scheme applied to all employees reporting to Nijenhuis, said the defence. It consisted of a sales target and a "Z factor", which was a function applied to the commission that "reflected the difficulty of the financial target applicable to that employee.
Wipro said that van den Berg's terms were set only in his contract and were not also made, as claimed, orally, by email and implied by conduct. It denies some meetings and telephone conversations in which van den Berg claimed his terms were agreed ever took place.
The firm also denied that Azim Premji, its chairman, heard van den Berg's complaint about non-payment of his commission on a visit to Bangalore.
"The claimant would have had no opportunity to speak to someone as senior as Mr Azim Premji on a matter of this nature," it said.
Wipro admitted that van den Berg had "executed" the Shell business, but said he had not "procured" it.
It said in its defence that hundreds of people had been involved in the bid for Shell and he had worked on only one of five "streams" of the initial bid. Then, over five days, van den Berg worked on the due diligence as one in a team of five people, which was one of five such teams, all of which were supported by a 300-strong staff.
It noted that van den Berg was one of seven people involved in the final negotiations, but claimed his role was not pivotal. The defence said Wipro had paid van den Berg all he was due.
A preliminary hearing is set for 14 May, said Weber. ®