THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Shell Reassigns Finance Executive
Coopman Was Big Official
At 'Upstream' Business,
Which Booked Oil Reserves
By CHIP CUMMINS and MARK LONG
Staff Reporters of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
April 8, 2004; Page A3
LONDON -- Anglo-Dutch oil company Royal Dutch/Shell Group, grappling with a number of investigations into its energy-reserves accounting, said it reassigned the top financial executive at its exploration-and-production business.
A Shell spokesman said that Frank Coopman -- the chief financial officer of Shell's "upstream" businesses since 2002 -- had been offered another, unspecified "key" position at Shell, but had turned it down.
Before a shakeup earlier this year, Shell's upstream businesses were almost solely responsible for booking Shell's reserves. Disclosures this year about its reserve accounting have sparked investigations of Shell by securities regulators in the U.S. and Europe, and led to industrywide questions about how energy companies tally their oil and natural-gas holdings.
The Shell spokesman declined to comment on the reasons for the reassignment. Mr. Coopman remains an employee at Shell, though the spokesman said he doesn't have a job title. "We will continue to work towards a mutually acceptable alternative" for Mr. Coopman, the spokesman said. Shell declined to make Mr. Coopman available for comment.
Mr. Coopman's reassignment is the first reshuffling of senior Shell management since the departure early last month of Chairman Philip Watts and Walter van de Vijver, former head of Shell's upstream division. Shell's board ousted Sir Philip and Mr. van de Vijver, citing a loss of confidence in the two. In January, Shell said it would reduce by 20% the tally of oil and natural-gas reserves it reports in filings to the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Last month, Shell said it would reduce the tally slightly more, and has delayed the publication of its annual report until it conducts more-thorough reserve reviews. Reserves are a major indicator for investors of an oil company's performance and future value.
As the top finance executive for Shell's upstream businesses, Mr. Coopman reported to Mr. van de Vijver until his boss's departure. An internal restructuring unveiled last month put Mr. Coopman directly under Judy Boynton, Shell's group-wide financial chief. Before his most recent job, Mr. Coopman served as Shell's controller. His responsibilities in that post included compliance with group accounting standards and external reporting of Shell's results, according to Shell's Web site.
Shell said Simon Henry, head of group investor relations, will succeed Mr. Coopman immediately. A successor for Mr. Henry hasn't been named, leaving the job empty at a time when Shell's relations with big investors have been strained by complaints over the handling of the reserves-downgrade disclosures.
Shell's audit committee and outside counsel are conducting an internal review into the circumstances of the reserves downgrade. U.S. and European regulators, including the SEC and the U.S. Justice Department, are also probing the matter. Shell has said the review will be completed in the next few weeks and will be turned over to the SEC, while the review's main findings will be made public.
At least one other Shell official has changed positions since the reserve disclosure on Jan. 9. Anton Barendregt, formerly Shell's senior reserves auditor, left that job on Feb. 5, though he continues to remain at Shell. Mr. Barendregt, reached last month on his cellphone, declined to comment.
Write to Chip Cummins at firstname.lastname@example.org and Mark Long at email@example.com