Tuesday, January 10, was a wonderful day for those of us that are skeptical of the H-1B nonimmigrant program that has stolen hundreds of thousands of well-paid, often high-tech jobs from citizen and green card workers. Let me count the ways:
- A huge, India-based job shop was forced to settle a federal law suit charging it with discrimination against citizen workers in the U.S.;
- It had to pay a group of them about $4.65 million dollars;
- In a totally separate case, in another federal court, an individual H-1B was sentenced to jail because of fraud;
- The charge was insider trading, including close to $1 million in illegal profits, in one of those crypto currencies, Coinbase; the H-1B will be deported; and
- To sprinkle a little more sugar on these matters, Coinbase, a major user of H-1Bs, announced a layoff of another 20 percent of its workforce, while the stock price for Tesla, the firm run by ex-H-1B Elon Musk, continued to drop, its total value being down about $4.4 billion for the day.
The two court stories involved one or two individual H-1B workers in the fraud case, more than $5.5 million in fees, penalties and restitutions, 460 or so displaced U.S. workers of “non-South Asian descent”, and a plethora of lawyers. Both cases were in the Southern District of New York.
The Specifics. The H-1B employer in trouble is Larsen & Toubro Infotech Ltd., headquartered in Mumbai. Its main business in the U.S. is to recruit H-1Bs, almost exclusively from India, and then rent them out to American firms; in 2022 it secured 1,843 labor certifications, leading to an estimated 600 additional H-1Bs as firms get about one third of the workers they say they “need”, according to the Myvisajobs website.
Suing them on behalf of the U.S. workers was the Kotchen and Low firm, based in Washington, D.C., an outfit that has mounted several cases along these lines against other H-1B employers, as we have reported previously.
Each of the 460 U.S workers will get $10,109; the whistleblower gets $30,000 and the law firm $1.5 million. May there be more successful suits along these lines!
As to the individual fraudsters in the Coinbase case, one, Nikhil Wahi, was sentenced to 10 months in jail plus the time spent there while waiting for the trial. Unusually, the Law360 story indicated that he will also be deported at the end of the 10 months; in addition, he is to make nearly $1 million in restitution payments.
Nikhil Wahi is identified in court papers as a citizen of India and as having a “work visa”; he is clearly an H-1B. His older brother, Ishan Wahi, also charged in the case and a former employee of Coinbase, is simply listed as a citizen of India, without any notation about his visa; he may be an H-1B, or may have been one. He faces trial in March. A third co-conspirator, a U.S. citizen named Sameer Ramani, is at large.
In the case of Nikhil Wahi, he was arrested at an airport with a lot of luggage and a one-way ticket to India, minutes before the plane was scheduled to depart.
Coinbase is a major user of H-1B workers. In 2021, it sought 192 H-1B slots, and probably secured about 60-65 of them, the usual ratio of filings to workers secured. Nikhil Wahi had worked for another Silicon Valley giant, Salesforce. In 2021, it sought 2,032 H-1B slots and probably got 700 or so of these workers.
The New York criminal case against Nikhil Wahi is 1:22-cr-00392 in the PACER files; there are also two non-criminal cases filed against him in the U.S. Courts in the Western District of Washington State. One of them involves the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Regarding Tesla’s losses for the day, while the per-share losses have been considerably larger in recent days, on January 10 the price of a share fell by only $1.40. But given the fact that there are 3,146,000,000 — that’s right more than three billion — shares outstanding, the cumulative loss for the day was a not-inconsiderable $4,404,400,000 blow.