Dr. John Huong – Former Shell Production Geologist of almost 30 years standing
(Photograph Courtesy of The Borneo Post)
(The following comments in the name of Dr John Huong were published prior to the defamation proceedings brought against him collectively by EIGHT companies in the Royal Dutch Shell Group. The comments were published in June 2004 soon after news broke of the Shell reserves fraud. Shell is currently seeking his imprisonment in Malaysia for alleged contempt of court. It is interesting to note the recommendation for the unification into a single company over a year before the merger into Royal Dutch Shell Plc)
I have integrated my personal insights as seen from the perspective of a former Shell employee – a Shell geologist for almost 30 years – who was unfairly axed by Shell management. I was punished because I insisted on working within the ethical boundaries of Shell’s “Statement of General Business Principles” (SGBP) which is supposed to protect shareholder, national and other stakeholder interests.
When I started with Shell all those years ago I was proud to be an employee of what I considered to be nothing less than the best company in the world; an internationally respected brand and an equally highly respected management. It is a matter of the deepest regret to me that the company has sunk so low with its management acquiring global notoriety for participating in a disgraceful scandal which ranks alongside the likes of Enron and WorldCom.
Dr Huong quoting from an email:
“In my experience Shell directors” and Shell managers, “believe that truth is a precious commodity to be used as a last resort. It has to be squeezed out of them. They prefer to deceive, make empty pledges (Shell’s code of ethics), intimidate,” ostracize, “hide information from their own shareholders”, employees, the government who gave them the license to operate and, and finally “retreating behind their army of lawyers” for shelter “whenever there is a prospect that management misdeeds will be exposed.”
I was not the only member of staff at Shell who was fired for up-holding Shell’s SGBP. That document had caused untold damage and suffering to many Shell employees. I strongly suggest that Shell suspends the SGBP until such time as Shell management is prepared to honour the noble pledges proclaimed therein. In other words, until the written pledges of integrity and transparency are matched by the actions of Shell management.
Shell’s ethical code was and is not worth listening to unless top management becomes a role model for integrity and transparency. Under current circumstances what is the point of having an annual ritual performed for the CEO at operating companies, where it is a mandatory requirement for staff to sign off their ethical health forms (ie Conflict of Interest) irrespective of compliance with Shell’s Statement of General Business Principles”.
If a company loses the trust and respect of its shareholders, employees, and customers, as Shell Management has done on a truly spectacular basis, then there’s only going to be a rather empty shell left.
More recently, I have also written numerous times to Mr. Jeroen van der Veer and Mr. Malcolm Brinded, of the Shell Group and other senior management under the umbrella of the Royal Dutch Shell Group. All of these letters were ignored. How could Shell management treat me so despicably, so shabbily, after I had worked for Shell so loyally and with such diligence for almost three decades?
Not too long ago, I provided to Shell Management insights of my extensive knowledge of what actually goes on behind the wall of secrecy and intimidation imposed on Shell employees. This was in a letter entitled – “The Truth Behind the Royal Dutch Shell Group icon”.
Dr Huong’s message to investors:
Investors – “You cannot be sure of Shell” growing your funds. Potential employees – do not trust your career and aspirations to Shell until you understand the true inside story. If Shell is unwilling to undergo radical change at every level in the organization for the better, Shell’s negative and evil ingrained cultures will ultimately destroy the little which remains of its former reputation.
It is ironic: If only Shell management had abided by its own ethical code – the SGBP, the humiliating reserves scandal, the results of which will inevitably drag on for many years with the investigations and ruinous class action law suits, could never have occurred. As God is my witness, that is the truth.
I am finding it hard to come to terms with the con-artist mentality of a management which thought it could say one thing in speeches and advertising – pledging “Profits and Principles” – honesty, openness, integrity etc and actually get away and rewarded with doing the exact opposite.
My recipe for recovery: Every single member of Shell senior management who is implicated in or tainted to the least extent by the reserves debacle should do the honorable thing and resign immediately. That includes Mr van der Veer and Mr Malcolm Brinded. Royal Dutch Petroleum and Shell Transport and Trading should be merged into one unified company – Shell with a single management structure. It needs to have an entirely new management team and that will certainly have to think about EXCLUDING Mr. Jon Chadwick – consisting of individuals who have NO possible connection with past misdeeds and who possess the integrity and dedication essential to the considerable task of restoring Shell’s reputation; all of these ingredients are needed for a genuinely fresh start. Only then would I be prepared to invest in Shell or to recommend anyone else to so.
Some relevant extracts from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948 (United Nations) (http://www.un.org/Overview/rights.html)
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
(1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
This article is published under the universally recognised basic human rights of freedom of expression and freedom of speech.
Dr. John Huong Yiu Tuong
10 June 2004