AN OPEN LETTER TO ROYAL DUTCH SHELL CHAIRMAN JEROEM VAN DER VEER (18/07/04)
Dear Mr Van der Veer
I am writing to you in my capacity as a member of the Shell Transport and Trading Company plc. I am a long term holder of Shell shares.
Have you seen “The Money Programme” broadcast on BBC2 TV on Thursday evening 15th July called “SHELL SHOCK”? If not, you may wish to know that I have published an unofficial transcript on my website (Shell2004.com) as a facility to parties interested in Shell, including lawyers and the media.
I have also republished on the site the information and documents which were the subject of (1) a High Court Restraining Order (2) threatened committal proceedings against oil reserves whistleblower Dr John Huong by 8 companies in the Royal Dutch Shell Group including a Shell Exploration and Production company.
Returning to the Money Programme, when will Shell (or you) be issuing libel proceedings in respect of the extremely serious statements of fact made about YOU personally and against Shell management generally, bearing in mind that one of the contributors, Mr Stanley Bernstein, unequivocally stated that more investors “were affected by this fraud than any other fraud in history”.
THESE WERE THE STATEMENTS OF FACT MADE DIRECTLY ABOUT YOU: "signed statements declaring that the submission known as a 20F was a true and faithful description of Shell’s reserves”; “He signed false financial statements”; “he signed certifications that the financial statements met with SEC guidelines.”
AND ABOUT THE CMD: “And what about the Committee of Managing Directors? They too had received a much stronger warning about fooling the market. Jeroem van der Veer and the rest of the CMD still took no action.”
AND ABOUT THE CONDUCT OF SHELL MANAGEMENT: “deceit”; “false pretences”; “falsely exaggerating”; “misled the world”; “basically they had been told a lie”; “embellished on the numbers”; “exaggerated the numbers”; “basically we lied to you”; “cover it up”; “doctoring the books”; “inventing numbers”; “certifying the reserve which he knows doesn’t exist”; “reserves replacement and production growth were inflated”; “I am becoming sick and tired of lying about the extent of our reserves”; “cover-up”; “actually destroyed documents”; “the scandal blew up and the company’s reputation carefully nurtured over a century was destroyed”; “Shell has lied intentionally and deceived the public” ; “now they know that Shell lied to them and cost them money”; “a fraud perpetrated over a long period of time”; “a fraud perpetrated by the very heads of the company”.
There was none of the usual caveats which precede statements or comments which would otherwise be labelled as libellous: e.g. “allegedly”. The above descriptions were applied without any such qualification. They were put on record as statements of FACT.
If what has been said is true, then your resignation or at the very least, your suspension, is needed as a first step to help restore stability and credibility. If what was stated was untrue, then what legal remedy is being planned? Of course the latter may be rather difficult given the flood of similar comments/statements which have been published or broadcast without challenge. Let’s face reality: it is open season on Shell.
This makes Shell’s malicious decision to sue a former employee, Dr John Huong, for defamation of all things, all the more inexplicable. EIGHT companies within the Royal Dutch Shell Group ganged up on Dr Huong, a family man near retirement age. What a contrast to the former Shell Chairman publicly described as a “CROOK” at the Shell Transport AGM in the presence of the massed media. It did no credit to the reputation of Lord Oxburgh that he had to indulge in spin to defend Sir Philip Watts, whose silence has been bought with a £1 million payoff kept under wraps for several weeks. "Ron" preferred to use the term "economical with the information". Will Shell or Sir Philip be suing the relevant shareholder, Mr Farmer, for defamation? I think we know the answer.
While on the subject of the AGM's held in tandem, it was a pity that one story was told in London and another in The Hague. According to press reports two different figures were quoted in regards to the amount of the "lost" reserves which Shell still hopes to recover at some unspecified future date, perhaps in a parallel universe. The ultimate Shell game; now you see it, now you don't; its less than we thought; now its even less than that; now almost a quarter has vanished; but some might just re-materialise to a varying extent, depending on which AGM you attend. Then we had two different accounts of who knew what and when about the mysterious disappearance. "Ron" gave one answer in London and Aad Jacobs a different one in The Hague. The term "farce" comes to mind.
Shell’s action in maliciously issuing defamation proceedings against Dr Huong at the end of June was incredibly badly timed. A delicious irony bearing in mind the reputation survey published in The Observer within days of the Writ, showing Shell’s reputation AS THE WORST IN THE UK and now the BBC programme, days later, confirming Shell’s reputation has been “DESTROYED”.
Under these circumstances, Shell is making a laughing stock of itself by claiming that a single individual in Malaysia had damaged its reputation: what reputation? One charge levelled at Shell by Dr Huong, as quoted in the Statement of Claim (14d), is that: “The Plaintiffs cover-up their dishonest misdeeds..” Excuse me while I fall about laughing. Is Shell seriously going to claim that it has not engaged in cover-up and dishonest misdeeds? If so, Shell management really must still be in denial or living in fantasyland.
Shell needs to look no further than its own management to identify the individuals who have ruined Shell’s reputation; who have made Shell a subject of ridicule and derision. That is the sad truth of the matter.
Your action against Dr Huong has of course backfired spectacularly, because as indicated above, the prohibited articles are back on my website Shell2004.com together with the Court Papers, to Shell’s acute embarrassment.
Both sets of documents now have the immense added attraction of being forbidden fruit - the subject of a High Court Order and the threat of committal proceedings by the Royal Dutch Shell Group against the relevant whistleblower, who knows a thing or two about Shell’s reserves debacle, including the role played by Sir Mark Moody-Stuart.
Dr Huong appeared before the High Court Judge on Thursday 15th July and a further hearing is scheduled for mid-August. Had no one at Shell envisaged how bad it would look for EIGHT Shell companies to sue a former employee for speaking the truth, while Shell has simultaneously paid over a million pounds to another former employee to buy his silence. This payment was made despite knowing that Sir Philips elevation to the summit of Shell management was achieved by deceit, cover-up and outright fraud; according to the unequivocal statement of fact on the BBC, nothing less than the biggest fraud in history.
Was the payment to Sir Philip designed to set precedence for others who may yet be ejected from the management of Royal Dutch Shell for their own culpability in the same massive multibillion dollar fraud? Are you by any chance contemplating a Japanese Garden?
cc. Shell management and employees and the news media at large
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