The Making of Amends
By Bill Campbell
In reaction to general press releases issued by Shell and to the internal communications to EP staff in June 2006 I notified Jeroen van der Veer, the CEO of Shell that it was my intention of taking Shell to Court for defamation of character
* Rebuttal from Stuart Bruseth, Head of Global Media Relations – Shell International to journalists
Shell Legal Counsel as part of the mediation process which I cover below state that it was never the intention of Shell to defame my character, and lack of intention is a defense against defamation in Law. It will be up to a judge and jury to determine this, but in simple terms if you accuse someone of not telling the truth then you are effectively calling them a liar. Anyway, in the electronic attached document ‘Progress with Safety’ I cover these examples in detail.
Because of some of its content, quote you may be aware that the Upstream magazine published an article making a number of very serious allegations against Shell in its operation of the Brent field and, very personal, and completely unjustified, attacks on current and former members of Shell's staff and management. Shell strongly refutes these allegations. Safety is Shell’s foremost priority at all times and we absolutely reject any suggestion that we would compromise safety offshore.
In 1999, Shell initiated the Platform Safety Management Review, in which Campbell was asked to participate, and responded vigorously to its findings.
In late 2004, Mr. Campbell made allegations to Shell about his perception of a lack of follow-up to the PSMR. Shell took his claims very seriously and a thorough investigation concluded
We are currently reviewing our legal position and reserve all our rights in respect of resorting to legal action to protect our reputation and that of our current and former staff. Safety is, and will remain our first priority at all times unquote
What action did you take in response to the EP and press releases?
On the 23rd September I wrote to the CEO and copied to Greg Hill who is understood to have been the leader of the EP Crisis team directly responsible for the transmission of communiqué.
See below extract of letter to Jeroen van der Veer
I informed Jakob Stausholm that his unexpected call to me, at the time of the newspaper articles being released in June, had been accidentally recorded.
In this conversation, where he repeatedly asks what can be done to bring an end to these matters etc I reiterate to him the true account of his investigation findings.
He does not on the taped conversation refute any of this and quickly disassociates himself from the EP crisis team media releases and internal memos to staff. He says ‘it was done without his input’, he ‘was not involved’, thus excusing himself and Richard Sykes from the formation of the wording of the releases. It appears they were simply told to sit on the sidelines and not get involved.
All this is very damaging since here we have your Chief Internal Auditor, and leader of the internal investigation, essentially agreeing that the releases are known by him to be false and misleading, I offered to send him the tape recording, but to date that offer has been declined. You now are personally involved since your reply to me on the maintenance records falsification issue* is post the notification and warning to Stausholm not to perjure himself because this tape existed.
There are two roads ahead, either
I have no stomach for putting good people like Merry, Madden, Mutimer and many others into court to testify (as they surely will) against their employer.
In a later telephone conversation with Keith Mutimer, who had been asked to contact me by Greg Hill, Mutimer requested if I would sit down with Hill to bring an end to all this.
Keith Mutimer informed me that he together with Madden and Merry had discussed the press releases with Hill. They had indicated clearly (as they did I understand in 2005 when interviewed by Stausholm & Sykes), that they supported my claims, including that maintenance records etc were falsified etc, (because it was essentially their audit findings also). They pointed out to Hill that the EP press and internal releases brought their character into question also.
I have been thoroughly sickened by the whole process that a Company with such published principles and standards can lie, cheat, falsify and corrupt and defame the character of a respected employee who has been commended various times throughout his long career.
When challenged by me in a note directed to him that indeed maintenance records had been falsified the CEO got personally involved by replying that there was no verified evidence of this. Thus you have the CEO, perched at the pinnacle of the organization, with oversight over the Company, the Rule Maker if you like, in denial of an audit report produced as part of his own Company business controls framework. That is what the 1999 PSMR audit findings stated, that is what also is stated in the briefing note from the Shell Expro Internal Audit Manager to the Oil and Gas Director on 20th and 22nd October 1999.
Is the CEO really saying that his loyal and dedicated current employees Hoskins, Mutimer, Merry and Madden, and his retired Audit Manager Gerbrand Moeyes are lying. Is that what he is saying?
We don’t live under the third Reich or in some totalitarian banana republic where history can be airbrushed out of existence, so although the truth may be unpalatable to the CEO, and his Executive Director it will not go away. His actions are reminiscent of the Phil and Walter affair, where the latter wanted an internal report buried out of sight, because it was dynamite, nothing seems to have changed at the top, where non-compliance rules ok.
He instructed his legal counsel to commence an arbitration or mediation process with me to reach a compromise without me reverting to legal action, what the legal people call ‘making amends’ to reach a situation acceptable to both parties. This mediation process commenced in September/November last year and the EP Legal Counsel Keith Ruddock contacted me. We have met twice near my home.
What can be reasonably inferred by this decision by the CEO?
That there was a case to answer and it was in his interest, and Shell’s interest to reach a compromise rather than going to law. I think the readers can agree you do not enter into a mediation process voluntarily to make amends to a person claiming defamation if you are innocent of that defamation, after all I am supposed to have made unjustified attacks on employees past and present.
Would you deal with someone who did that?
Jakob, in the post oil reserves debacle era had a key role as EP Chief Internal Auditor in a Company which was said by him, and supported by public statements, to have strengthened its business controls framework significantly.
He had a role in the new governance and controls regime to investigate any claims of impropriety against Shell executives. Thus he, assisted for a time by Richard Sykes, the EP Group Environmental Advisor, carried out an investigation into the followed up from the 1999 PSMR audit.
What Jakob clearly and unambiguously states in the recorded conversation is that the EP communiqué did not take into account the factual evidence from his investigation report. His report was ostensibly ignored. This he implied was a conscious decision to give strong rebuttal to the Upstream magazine outpourings but as a consequence he accepted this had the secondary effect as a punishment against me.
Why would the CEO and the Executive Director subvert their own internal investigation?
I think in the outpourings from Upstream magazine they were taken by surprise and the press releases were robust in extremis to counteract this, a sort of knee jerk reaction. They could not achieve the level of denial necessary if they took the investigation findings into account, so they ignored it because the truth was very inconvenient.
Who was responsible for this?
Well the immediate responsibility was the EP Crisis team. However Greg Hill, who is generally well regarded, had in the interview with BBC Scotland agreed that the PSMR follow-up was handled badly and that individuals had falsified maintenance records. So he must have known his press releases were false and misleading but I can only assume, like Stausholm & Sykes, he was instructed to toe the line in the common good.
The coercion to do this must lie with the Executive Director and/or the CEO or both, these officials having oversight over the process. I am in no doubt that Hill, Stausholm and Sykes were complicit in this cover-up but I bear them no malice, as obedient officers, I assume they were responding to the commands of their generals.
What does this mean with reference to enhanced business controls framework post the oil reserves debacle?
24 months or less after the oil reserves debacle, we are again witnessing the purposeful act of Shell deceiving their employees, stakeholders and Society as a whole. As in 2004, when the truth is inconvenient to your chief executives, they simply corrupt their own oversight processes by subversion of their own internal investigation report.
The published improvements in the business controls framework, the increased involvement of the non-executives, the role of the Chief Internal Auditor, the golden rules, the modification of the SGBP to include a clause on compliance have all been demonstrated to have been a waste of time and effort.
The only difference between the reserves debacle, and the Brent Bravo scandal, is the latter is not about commercial ethics, it’s about the unlawful killing of two young men, and hiding from public scrutiny, the culpability of the then Shell Expro Directors in those deaths.
What then was the true account of the Stausholm/Sykes investigation?
At the meeting on 25th July, 2005 with the CEO and the senior EP legal counsel all the above was discussed. Legal counsel had not prepared a summary of the investigation and would not discuss the findings with me, or say what impact these findings may have. He indicated when he had completed a summary that this would be presented to the CEO. Some months later Stausholm informed me that the CEO had written to Malcolm Brinded (I understood this to be a letter of censure) covering at least two points, namely
In the mediation with Shell what terms of settlement did you indicate would be satisfactory to stop defamation proceedings?
My terms for settlement put to Shell EP legal Counsel was in four parts – not particularly onerous and not putting Shell at unacceptable risk
With reference to part (1)
The process with the Malcolm Brinded statement (see Appendix) was going reasonably well, although it was ‘soft’ and to a great degree let Shell ‘off the Hook’ I was prepared to accept this as the only realistic outcome. I did not expect Shell to prejudice themselves by making a stronger statement, for example that there were ‘significant shortcomings’. This would have been my preferred wording.
Unfortunately to date, the mediators in the process, Kieron McFadyen and the Shell EP legal counsel Keith Ruddock, have been unable to get Shell to agree on the final wording of the statement. The process has been dragging on and I indicated to Shell that if we could not get agreement by 26th January I would withdraw from the settlement process. The stumbling block is based on one word (shortcomings). It would appear that Malcolm Brinded could not stomach this mild rebuke.
I got an update from Keith Ruddock on 26th January where Shell want to replace the sentence containing shortcomings with the following quote I also recognize that though follow up to the 1999 PSMR was vigorously pursued at the time, I am sure there are areas where, with the benefit of hindsight, we could have done better unquote.
I am afraid I cannot accept this. It appears to me evidence of continuing denial. The reality is that the PSMR was not vigorously pursued. What vigor was expended was wasted energy, as it was ineffective.
In the electronic attachment in the form of PowerPoint I tell something of the story questioning whether there was Progress with Safety, or whether this progress was illusionary, a fable worthy of Hans Christian Andersen at his best.
It’s up to others to judge, just look at the facts
Have Shell explained why they want to remove ‘shortcomings’?
To soften the message, a form of wordsmithing, a skill in which Shell are world class. Legal counsel has explained why Malcolm Brinded wants to drop the word shortcomings quote on the follow up to the PSMR, I think that the reference to "shortcomings" may cause concerns as it is not clear whether these were major failings or small oversights but as it concerns safety it is nonetheless a statement which will raise questions and would be picked up by the press and could re-open the whole debate unquote
Now I think any reasonable interpretation of this reply from Legal Counsel is that he is not disputing that there were shortcomings, but that if they use this word (i.e. get truthful for once in line with our stated business principles) then this will over excite our employees and the press who inevitably will get there hands on the statement.
I have been advised that Malcolm Brinded has spoken to the PSMR team members Hoskins, Madden, Merry and Mutimer and this is covered already in the Shell statement (see Appendix)
Kieron has met with the new Head of the Offshore Safety Division (the HSE) in Aberdeen.
He later, along with the Shell UK Country Chairman James Smith, met with the CEO of the HSE. Kieron advised me at our last meeting that these were bridge building meetings where Shell did indicate atonement for past dealings and wished to lay the foundation for better and more open communications in the future.
I did not get in the discussions any information on any action re reparation to workforce on failure by Shell to make them aware of risks on their respective offshore installations and any action to reduce risks both in 1999 and 2003.
On a positive Note however the OILC (workforce representative’s organisation) has, at Kieron’s initiative, been involved more openly with Shell to establish better relationships and understanding and this is to be welcomed.
When you read the Note from Malcolm you get the feeling of intimacy between us, as if we discussed these issues together over a beer. I have not seen Malcolm since I think early 1996 and my only communication with him was a personal letter sent by me in December 2004. Its just another example of what we call in modern parlance spin, however I have no objections to it being written in this manner, but just so as you are aware.
You will see from the letter that I was employed by SIEP (on a part-time basis) as a consultant from 2003 till May 2006 leading or being involved in six major HSE –MS audits.
You might find it surprising therefore that in June 2006, a Company that had employed me, and commended me for my work, considered suddenly that I had made some very personal, and completely unjustified attacks on current and past Shell employees.
Would you employ a Consultant who had done that for over two years after he had made these allegations? These allegations were put to Malcolm in the letter of December 2004, he was asked if he had any objections to them being made public, either in a paper, or book, he raised no objections then, or since.
Whilst on the point, some folks who knew me in Aberdeen were critical as to why I did not raise these concerns when I worked with Shell. Well at the time when I was dismissed as Lead Auditor of the PSMR, on return to The Hague the issue was taken up with the HSE Manager, who discussed with Phil Watts and through my line to the Regional Director for Europe, Bob Sprague. I was never informed what actions, if any, they took.
I also was confident that the HSE, investigating the workforce concerns re Touch Fuck All, and all this getting onto BBC TV news and headlines in P&J and The Scotsman, would quickly get to the bottom of all this stuff and come across the PSMR findings. They did not, and why they did not is another story, for another day.
But more importantly, the two men were killed in September 2003, over a year after I had left full employment with SIEP on early retirement on the first of September 2002.
The following is an extract from the agreed working discussion draft of the 29th November 2006. This Draft was prepared to reflect discussion between David Richmond, acting as a witness to events and myself. Representing Shell was Kieron McFadyen who most people are aware is the new EP corporate HSE Manager and a Shell EP legal counsel Keith Ruddock.
The Note was to be issued from the Executive Director Malcolm Brinded to specific EP staff i.e. EPLT, EPLF and EP Europe staff together with all HSE safety professionals, senior maintenance community staff – JG3+ - and all audit professionals. The title of the Note was Safety Takes Priority
Further to the previous communications sent to you regarding UK North Sea safety, I wanted to provide you with an update on where we are and to share some personal reflections. As you know, earlier in the summer there was considerable publicity regarding the 1999 UK Platform Safety Management Review (PSMR) and its follow-up. We have recently carried out a learning review of how we responded to the publicity and debate that surrounded the comments made by Mr. Bill Campbell in relation to the PSMR which were widely reported in the media. Our review process also included two meetings with Bill Campbell. The aim was to fully understand his remaining concerns while at the same time soliciting his feedback on how he viewed our handling of the matter.
Throughout our statements on this issue, we have always tried to make it clear that, we recognise and respect Bill Campbell's professional and technical skills. Indeed, he was engaged by Shell as a HSE audit consultant as recently as this year. We recognise too that his motivation in raising these issues was a desire to improve safety and in particular was prompted by his frustration at not having had his evidence heard at the Brent Bravo Fatal Accident Inquiry. He now accepts that the decision not to call him as a witness at the FAI had nothing to do with Shell. Whilst we do not agree with all that he said, there are many areas on which we are aligned, and in particular we recognise the way in which the PSMR was followed up that there were shortcomings at the time and it could have been handled better. Again in the spirit of openness I wanted to share with you the outcome of our engagements with him. Bill Campbell and Shell clearly share the same overriding aim of seeking continuous improvement in Shell’s operational and HSE performance across our business.
Seven years on, it is clear that the PSMR in 1999 was a pivotal event in Shell’s ongoing safety journey in the North Sea. I want to be clear that the contributions made by each of the members of the PSMR team, including Bill Campbell, were important in providing the basis for much of what has followed in safety improvements.
I have also now engaged with each of the Shell PSMR team members and relayed this message to them in person. In my view, the PSMR spurred on our focus on asset integrity and was a key stimulus for our efforts to address the “hearts and minds“ aspects of safety, which have become such a major part of our EP global safety agenda. It was also a key step on our safety journey which has led, amongst other things, to the establishment of the Golden Rules, the inclusion of compliance as a separate principle in the SGBP and has influenced the way in which we look at Technical Integrity, of which more below.
I also want personally to say that I recognise that we could have handled aspects of the PSMR report-out in 1999 in a better way. The key learning being that, whatever differences of view exist, individuals who raise safety concerns should feel that their messages are being well understood and responded to. The experience also underlines the critical importance of Internal Audit in ensuring that such messages are identified, elevated and heard. Both Bill and I also believe that, although we need to absorb the learning from past experiences, it is time now to move forward. What is clearly important within EP is that we reinforce our focus on safety - and ensure that we deliver, as we should on our stated vision of making safety our number one priority in all that we do.
Many thanks - Malcolm