The Sunday Times: Shell finance chiefís role in doubt
April 18, 2004
THE future of Judy Boynton, Royal Dutch/Shellís chief financial officer, is in the balance this weekend after a series of crisis meetings at the Anglo-Dutch oil giant.
Boyntonís position was being discussed this weekend, with directors split over whether she should leave the company. Some believe she may choose to step down.
The debate over Boynton was part of a wider discussion of an internal report into the debacle over Shellís reserves. In January the company had to reduce its level of oil and gas reserves by 20%, stunning investors and sending its share price reeling. Its two most senior executives, Sir Philip Watts and Walter van de Vijver, were forced out last month.
Shellís board has spent the past two days examining a report by Davis Polk & Wardwell, an American law firm that was hired last month to probe the background to the January bombshell. It is thought that Davis Polkís conclusions could be published as early as tomorrow. The law firm has uncovered a difficult relationship between Watts and Van de Vijver, having sifted through the pairís internal e-mails.
Davis Polk examined volumes of documents and found several incidences of tension, to the point where it could have affected the atmosphere at a senior level.
Boynton has so far managed to remain unscathed in the crisis that has enveloped the oil giant since January. As the pressure on her mounted late last week she engaged Samuel Weiner, a leading American securities lawyer and former member of the enforcement division of the Securities and Exchange Division.
Boynton is highly regarded within Shell but she was in a pivotal position as the company continued to overestimate its reserves position.
Her role was highlighted only last week when The New York Times alleged that she had complained to Van de Vijver late last year that she had not been consulted on a report about the reserves position. This had been prepared by Frank Coopman, then the chief financial officer for exploration and production.
Shareholders said that they were not interested in any more blood-letting, however, and would rather see a firm commitment to change the century-old company structure.