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Los Angeles Times: New Shell Chief: Faith Lost in Leaders


By Associated Press

5 March 04


LONDON The new chairman of Royal Dutch/Shell Group of Cos. said Friday his predecessor and another key executive had been asked to resign because the group's two boards had lost confidence in their leadership.


Jeroen Van der Veer took over the chairmanship Wednesday after chairman Sir Philip Watts and Walter van de Vijver, head of exploration and production, stepped down.


The move followed Shell's announcement Jan. 9 that it had reclassified 20 percent of its proved oil and gas reserves into less certain categories.


Speaking to reporters on a conference call Friday, van der Veer would not say whether any illegal acts had been uncovered in an internal review of the company's reserves downgrade.


"The boards lost confidence, and the loss of confidence is in connection with the whole reserves issue," van der Veer said, adding he couldn't say anything further until an investigation of the reserves downgrade was completed in a few weeks or months.


He said the probe is being conducted by an outside group working with Shell's audit committee, and that the results would be made public after they had been given to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The SEC is conducting a formal investigation of the reserves reclassification.


"Shell's reputation has been dented -- not only our external reputation with the public and shareholders, but it has been a real shock to our personnel," van der Veer said.


Shell had said earlier that van de Vijver has been replaced by Malcolm Brinded, the new managing director of the Shell Transport and Trading Co. PLC, the British component of the Shell group.


Some shareholders had called for Watts to resign after the Jan. 9 reserves announcement. Investors had criticized him for failing to deal personally with the issue."


On Friday, shares in Shell Transport & Trading Co. PLC fell 1.7 percent to close at 374.50 pence ($6.89) on the London Stock Exchange.

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