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The Financial Times: Shell looks at hiring ex-SEC chief Pitt


By Adrian Michaels in New York and Clay Harris in London

Published: March 14 2004 22:02 | Last Updated: March 14 2004 22:02  


Executives at Royal Dutch/ Shell have been exploring hiring Harvey Pitt, the former top US financial regulator, as a consultant while they consider strategies to resolve the global oil company's deepening crisis.


The possibility of bringing in Mr Pitt demonstrates a perceived need at Shell to impress US regulators that it is taking the right steps to address its problems.


The Securities and Exchange Commission, which Mr Pitt once chaired, is investigating Shell for overstating its oil and gas reserves. Shell revealed in January that its proved reserves were overstated by 20 per cent, and its chairman and head of exploration resigned this month.


Talks between some within Shell and Mr Pitt have been only preliminary, people close to the discussions said. Mr Pitt declined to comment, and the company said: "At the current time, Shell has no such plans."


Mr Pitt resigned from the SEC in late 2002 after a turbulent 18 months. He is now chief executive of Kalorama Partners, a Washington consultancy.


The SEC monitors closely every company it is investigating. It sometimes rewards remedial action and co-operation with authorities by giving companies more autonomy to conduct internal investigations. Some Shell directors are pressing for further resignations among top executives who may have known of doubts about the reserves well before they were admitted, people close to the board say.


Shell is also under scrutiny by the Financial Services Authority, the UK financial regulator. Shell said on Sunday: "We have been in contact with the FSA in line with our continuing obligations and continue to work with them."


The FSA declined to comment. As UK listing authority, it could be focusing on the company's announcements, after evidence that executives may have known for several years that there were doubts about the reserves. 

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