Royal Dutch Shell Group .com Ironic Shell: The Shell Transport FINAL AGM resulting from the reserves scandal, started and ended to the refrain of Bing Crosby crooning: “You can be sure of Shell”: 3.10pm Wednesday 29 June 2005


By John Donovan



Shell’s marathon AGM was held yesterday in sweltering conditions in what seemed like a large aircraft hanger (the ExCel Centre) adjoining the City of London Airport. It concluded after what seemed an eternity – over three hours of hot air.


Proceedings got underway after the ancient Shell TV commercial with Bing Crosby singing the virtues of Shell was shown on the giant screens, ending with the memorable concluding lyric: You can be sure of Shell!


Shell evidently hopes that its shareholders have very short memories and have already forgotten about the reserves scandal, the forced resignations and the $150 million fines paid by Shell to the financial regulators - the SEC and the FSA.


Many British holders of shares in Royal Dutch Petroleum Company protested bitterly at the tax liabilities facing them as a result of the Royal Dutch/Shell unification. Their pleas fell on the collective deaf ears on the platform. One shareholder asked Lord "Ron" Oxburgh if Shell would be willing to have discussions with the head of the Inland Revenue on the matter. Although this happens to be the former Shell Managing Director, David Varney (popularly known as “Napoleon” during his time at Shell) Lord Oxburgh did not offer to take up the suggestion.  


From time to time, proceedings were interrupted by what sounded like an aircraft trying to enter the hanger - Shell directors on the platform looked rather anxiously at one another wondering what was going on.


Later we enjoyed a spot of tuneful cabaret from some courageous  campaigners from the Nigerian Delta. Not as good as Bing, but with a more truthful message.  


Shareholder John Farmer was on hand again to annoy the Chairman. He indelicately raised the subject of the reserves scandal. Last year he upset Lord Oxburgh by calling Sir Phillip Watts “a crook”. This time he mentioned the word “fraud” and once more got a tongue lashing from an indignant “Ron”. Lord Oxburgh insisted that there is no “suggestion of fraud” in relation to the reserves scandal. He obviously has not read the claims set out in the multi-billion dollar US Class Action law suit brought against Shell on behalf of Pennsylvania State Pension Funds. Two Shell directors on the AGM platform, Malcolm Brinded and Sir Mark Moody-Stuart, are named Defendants in that action. Stanley Bernstein of Bernstein Liebhard & Lifshitz LLP, the lead plaintiff lawyers bringing the case against Shell, described the scandal on the BBC TV Money Programme last July (transcript link below) in the following terms: “There are a lot of investors and many maybe more investors that were affected by this fraud than any other fraud in history”. We also have the small matter of the ongoing criminal investigation by the US Justice Department, which also seems to have escaped the notice of Lord Oxburgh.


All votes were passed during the three successive meetings - the AGM, the "Court Meeting", and finally (and thankfully), the "Extraordinary Meeting". The unification received the go-ahead subject to a confirmation by the UK High Court on or around 20 July 2005.


The AGM concluded with another dose of Bing Crosby administered brain-washing.  


Whilst enjoying my warm wine and by now semi-stale sandwiches in the free buffet afterwards, I noticed a group of Shell staff standing in a circle chatting. Suddenly they all turned and looked at me. My old foe, Shell Legal Director/Shell International General Counsel, Richard Wiseman then strode towards me and warmly shook my hand. We exchanged pleasantries like long lost friends despite being opponents in six successive High Court Actions since 1994 – not to mention the current ongoing Royal Dutch/Shell proceedings against my 88 year old father. As Maggie said, it’s a strange world.




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