London Evening Standard: Sacked Shell chief hits back
14 April 2004
HE Dutch executive axed from Royal Dutch Shell along with former chairman Sir Philip Watts after the company admitted overbooking its reserves has launched a vigorous defence of his role at the oil giant in his first public comments since his ousting.
Walter van de Vijver, the former exploration and production chief, reacted angrily to his sacking and argued that he led calls for the firm to admit its mistakes. The company slashed its proven reserves by 20% in January and last month again cut its oil and gas reserve accounts.
Rather than being part of the problem, van de Vijver says he sought to solve the reserves overstatement which he discovered when he took over as head of exploration and production and that he promptly told Shell's managing directors committee about his findings.
'I introduced improved controls, guidelines, and technical rigour in the E&P unit,' he said. 'As the magnitude of the non-compliant reserves classifications became apparent in late 2003, I led the charge to communicate the issues fully within the company. I persisted in calling for full and prompt disclosure to the company's joint boards of directors and to the public. On 3 March 2004, without credible explanation, I was asked to resign my positions within the company.'
Shell's audit committee has hired law firm Davis Polk & Wardwell to conduct an internal investigation. It is widely believed that its preliminary findings lay much of the blame at the feet of van de Vijver and Watts although the review is not expected to be formally released for several weeks.
Van de Vijver said he had provided 'full co-operation and support to the US Securities and Exchange Commission and internal investigations' into the restatement of reserves at Shell.
The Anglo-Dutch oil and gas major is being investigated by the Financial Services Authority*, the SEC, the US Justice Department and Netherlands' markets regulator AFM as it is listed in all three countries.
The affair has also led to several class-action law suits against the company.