The Daily Telegraph: I warned Shell, says sacked reserves chief
By Christopher Hope, Business Correspondent (Filed: 15/04/2004)
Walter van der Vijver, Shell's former head of exploration and production, has criticised the Anglo-Dutch oil and gas giant for firing him "without credible explanation".
He also said that he "regularly communicated" with Shell's management board about the extent of overstated reserves at Shell once he had uncovered it last year.
Mr Van der Vijver was speaking for the first time since he and former chairman Sir Philip Watts lost their jobs after Shell's admission that it had overstated the level of its "proven" oil and gas reserves by 20pc.
In a detailed statement, issued through his lawyer in Washington, he said: "On March 3 2004, without credible explanation, I was asked to resign my executive and board positions within the company."
Mr Van der Vijver said that when he took over the exploration and production arm in June 2001 he decided to "take a close look at the company's reserves classification procedures and some of its previously booked reserves".
He continued: "I found that the company's procedures were in need of improvement and that some prior bookings needed to be re-evaluated for compliance purposes. I communicated my findings to the committee of managing directors without delay."
Mr Van der Vijver said that he introduced "improved controls, guidelines, and technical rigour" in the exploration and production division, keeping the committee or "CMD" fully informed of developments.
He added: "I regularly communicated to CMD regarding the nature and quantity of the potentially non-compliant reserves and our efforts to assess the magnitude of the problem, prevent reoccurrence and implement offsetting measures."
Mr Van der Vijver continued: "As the magnitude of the non-compliant reserves classifications became apparent in late 2003, I led the charge to communicate issues fully within the company."
He wanted the CMD to inform the two boards of Shell Transport & Trading and Royal Dutch Petroleum, which meet eight times a year. "I persisted in calling for full and prompt disclosure to the company's joint boards of directors and to the public," he said.
Mr Van der Vijver said that his statement was sparked by "misleading" reports in the press about his role in the overstatement. He said: "You can understand that I am saddened by the idea of leaving the company to which I have dedicated over 24 years of my professional career."
Shell's audit committee is conducting an independent inquiry into the reserves issue. A report is due soon. Shell said yesterday that it had been asked by the audit committee not to comment before the publication of its report.