After Wells Fargo VP allegedly pees on passenger, Air India comes under fire

Policemen escort Shankar Mishra, arrested for being an unruly airline passenger, outside a court in New Delhi, Saturday, Jan. 7, 2023. Indian police arrested Mishra following a complaint by a woman aboard an Air India flight from New York that he urinated on her in business class. AP Photo/Dinesh Joshi

A Wells Fargo vice-president has been fired from his job and sentenced to 14 days in jail while police investigate a complaint that he urinated on a passenger on board an Air India flight.

The Nov. 26 incident sparked outrage online after the victim’s account of the assault and Air India’s handling of the incident became public, eventually leading to Shankar Mishra’s arrest on Jan. 6 and provoking scorn from India’s flight regulator.

The victim claims that after the alleged urination incident, the flight’s crew tried to make her return to her soiled seat after the pilot “vetoed” giving her an available seat in first class. Then, the crew brought the perpetrator before her, against her wishes, so that he could apologize and beg her to not press charges.

He was allowed to walk off the flight when they reached their destination and police were not called.

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The Directorate General of Civil Aviation admonished Air India for “dereliction of their regulatory obligations,” calling its handling of the situation “devoid of empathy,” Fortune reported.

According to the elderly woman’s account of what transpired, obtained by the Washington Post, she was taking a New York to New Delhi flight in business class when the man in the seat in front of her got up and began urinating on her.

“My clothes, shoes and bag were soaked,” the woman wrote, adding that the man, who was later identified as Mumbai-based executive Shankar Mishra, was visibly inebriated.

The passenger who sat next to Mishra on the flight told a local reporter that the Wells Fargo vice-president “had downed four drinks in 40 minutes” and was talking incoherently.

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The woman said flight attendants refused to touch her and gave her a set of airline pyjamas and socks to change into. She was eventually given a crew member’s seat for the duration of the flight after the pilot allegedly denied her an available seat in first class.

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About two hours later, “I was then asked to return to the initial soiled seat,” the woman writes. “Although the staff has spread sheets on the seat, the area was still damp and reeking of urine and I refused to sit there.”

Meanwhile, flight attendants were having discussions with Mishra, the woman alleges, and crew members eventually asked if he could apologize to her.

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“I stated clearly that I did not want to interact with him or see his face, and that all I wanted was for him to be arrested on arrival,” the woman wrote. “However, the crew brought the offender before me against my wishes, and we were made to sit opposite each other in the crew seats.”

She writes that “in the face of his pleading and begging in front of me, and my own shock and trauma, I found it difficult to insist on his arrest and to press charges against him.”

The woman said her son-in-law lodged a complaint with Air India the day after the flight but they did not reach out for further investigation. She says she has only received a partial reimbursement for her flight ticket.

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Police arrested Mishra on Jan. 6, more than a month after the incident took place, and he is facing charges under laws of obscenity, sexual harassment, and insulting the modesty of a woman.

The same day as his arrest, Wells Fargo announced that they had fired Mishra.

“Wells Fargo holds employees to the highest standards of professional and personal behaviour and we find these allegations deeply disturbing,” the company said.

For its handling of the incident, Air India CEO Campbell Wilson stated that the airline “could have handled these matters better, both in the air and on the ground and is committed to taking action.”

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In a statement, Air India said that it began to refund the victim’s ticket on Dec. 2 and convened various meetings with the victim and her family in the following weeks. Air India said it lodged the victim’s complaint with police two days after her family requested it on Dec. 26.

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