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The Scotsman: Ousted Shell chief claims he tried to warn on reserves



15 April 04


SHELL’S ousted head of exploration broke his silence during the late hours of Tuesday night to launch a blistering attack on the company for its alleged attempts to blame its woes on himself and former chairman, Philip Watts.


Walter van der Vijver, Shell’s former chief executive of exploration and production, quit last month after the group admitted overstating its reserves. Watts also fell on his sword, under pressure from disgruntled investors.


It has since emerged that Shell’s internal audit committee is about to publish a report that is said to lay much of the responsibility for the reserves debacle at the feet of van der Vijver and Watts.


But some insiders at Shell are said to have voiced concerns that it is effectively a whitewash, deflecting responsibility too heavily on to the two departed executives.


In a statement released through his US lawyers, van der Vijyer launched a pre-emptive attack. He said: "While, out of respect for the company and because of the ongoing regulatory investigations and other legal proceedings, I have decided not to make a detailed statement at this time, key aspects of my efforts ... should be clarified for the record."


He went on to claim he made repeated efforts, starting as early as 2001, to bring problems with the company’s booking of reserves to the attention of its top management.


"I found that the company’s procedures were in need of improvement and that some prior bookings needed to be re-evaluated for [regulatory] compliance purposes", he said.


"I communicated my findings to the committee of managing directors without delay."


Shell declined to comment, saying its audit committee had asked management to defer all comment "relating to the facts and figures surrounding the reserves re-statement" until the completion of its review. The report is expected to be completed in the next few weeks.


The shares closed up 1 per cent, or 3.75p, at 381.75p.


• HUNDREDS of protestors captured a Shell oil pipeline base in Nigeria yesterday, shutting it down and demanding the group build a road to their village. They accused Shell’s Nigerian division of reneging on a promise to pave a potholed dirt road.


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