Home / Companies / News /  Ankiti Bose’s termination letter lists several charges but skips fraud

MUMBAI : The termination letter to Zilingo co-founder and chief executive Ankiti Bose lists at least four causes—including insubordination, neglect and failure to produce relevant documents—for firing her but skips accusing her of any fraudulent transactions, two people familiar with the matter said.

Bose was fired by the Zilingo board as CEO on 20 May based on a report by forensic investigator Kroll. Some of the other items listed in Bose’s termination letter include failure to present herself for questioning, breakdown of trust and overall neglect of duties, besides breach of her employment agreement, one of the people cited above said, requesting anonymity.

In a statement on Friday, Bose said she wasn’t given enough time to respond to the allegations or produce supporting documents and claimed her termination was based ‘inter alia’ (among other things) on the ‘grounds of insubordination’. Bose declined to comment for this story.

The board of Zilingo on Friday said it terminated Bose’s employment following a forensic firm’s investigation into complaints of ‘serious’ financial irregularities. While the board’s statement said her termination followed ‘complaints of financial irregularities’, it did not explicitly accuse her of wrongdoings on that count.

“Typically, there is a specific definition of cause in the employment contracts of founders. For the board to fire someone for cause, they should have facts to conclude there is ‘cause’ as per the terms of the employment contract. Given that such terminations often end up in courts, the board’s determination should have sufficient basis to withstand judicial scrutiny," said Sudip Mahapatra, a partner at law firm S&R Associates.

A spokesperson for Zilingo did not respond to a request for comment for this article. A spokesperson for Kroll declined to comment.

There were at least two items related to the company’s financials that Kroll was asked to investigate.

These included a mismatch in financial statements sent to the board and the investors, and an explanation for certain payments made to software companies, the second person briefed on the matter cited above, and a third person aware of the details said, asking to remain anonymous.

The Kroll report investigated payments made by Zilingo to the vendors but does not specifically trace any payments back to a specific person as that was not the brief of the investigation, the second and the third person cited above said, who both described the payments as ‘suspicious’.

Tracing the beneficiaries would require access to their bank accounts, which was beyond the scope of the forensic investigation, they added.

The second item that Kroll was asked to investigate was the method of recognizing revenue. This pertained to Zilingo’s 30 to 60 day-delay between booking commissions and shipping of goods. This method of recognizing revenue produced a difference in the management information system (MIS), a monthly report sent to investors and the reconciled financial statements of the company, the people cited above said.

The disparity between MIS and the financial statements has troubled many e-commerce firms, especially those that rely on discounting, as well as ed-tech firms that have had to grapple with student cancellations. The MIS captures revenue from sales and is sent to investors monthly, which then gets reconciled in the quarterly or annual financial statements.

In the case of Zilingo, the bookings would also get featured in the MIS, while the cancellations to the bookings would get reconciled in the financial statements—sometimes creating a disparity. Similarly, the discounts on booking commissions would later be recognized as a cost in the final financial statements.

This process was also complicated by the delay in filing company statements in FY20 and FY21. “The MIS issue and delayed financial statements are not as serious as the ‘suspicious’ payments," the third person briefed on the matter cited above said.

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