Royal Dutch Shell Group .com

The Daily Telegraph: Shell suit that begs a few questions


15 April 04


I warned Shell, says sacked reserves chief


From one grey Lubyanka to another: yesterday Shell issued another stiffly worded "no comment" over its embarrassing saga of overexaggerated proven oil and gas reserves.


This time the company was (not) responding to the first public remarks from Walter van der Vijver, its former exploration and production chief, who fell on his drill bit in the wake of the overstatement.


After weeks of silence since his sacking, Mr Van der Vijver was positively gushing with self-righteousness. His detailed lawyer-vetted statement, he claimed, was designed to counter inaccuracies published about him in the press in the past few weeks.


He was at pains to point out that he had "regularly communicated" his concerns to the company's management committee. His sacking was carried out "without credible explanation", he added.


It raises a number of questions, including whether Shell is paying for his (expensive) American lawyers to vet comments that are critical of itself. Shell won't say, but perhaps we shouldn't be surprised if it is.


The timing is also puzzling. Why didn't he wait until the publication of an independent audit committee report into the affair? Perhaps his statement is a coded warning to the committee that he won't willingly play the role of fall guy.


Former chairman Sir Phil Watts, the only other Shell employee to lose his job over the affair, still hasn't made any comment, though perhaps his lawyers are waiting for the report to be published in the next few weeks. It should make interesting reading.

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