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royaldutchshellplc.com is a gripe site operated by 92 year old Alfred Donovan and his 62 year old son John Donovan, which is critical of Royal Dutch Shell. On 11 June 2007, Ed Crooks of the Financial Times described it as “an anti-Shell website run by a father and son partnership that has been a long-running thorn in the companys side.” On 25 January 2008, Carl Mortished, World Business Editor of The Times newspaper wrote an article headlined: Shell chief fears oil shortage in seven years in which he described the site as an independent website that monitors the company. During the course of a long feud between the Donovan’s and Shell, oil industry observers have speculated that the Donovan’s thwarted a Shell Texaco merger and cost Shell billions of pounds sterling in respect of its Sakhalin-2 project in Russia.
Background to legal battles with Shell
The Donovans owned a chain of petrol stations in East London and Essex and created many sales promotion campaigns. In 1981, the Donovans devised a promotional game scheme for Royal Dutch Shell called Make Money. Because the promotion was successful, many other Shell promotional campaigns followed, including a £4.5 million Mastermind TV Series themed game; a scratch card game, “Shell Make Merry“, offering £2.5 million in Harrods food prizes; a playing card themed promotion, “Bruce’s Lucky Deal”, endorsed by UK TV celebrity Bruce Forsyth and in 1991, a £4.5 million Every Card Can Win scratch card game with a Star Trek theme.
In an article published by Marketing Magazine in September 1986, under the headline “Games people play“, Shell was identified as “perhaps the biggest user of games”. The article went on to say in reference to Shell, “All its recent games have involved Don Marketing”. John Donovan was shown in a photograph holding aloft posters for the Shell Singapore Make Money game.
The business relationship which operated on an international basis, floundered after Shell appointed a new National Promotions manager in 1992 to whom the Donovans promotional ideas were disclosed on a confidential basis. In 1994, the Donovans issued a Writ against Shell in respect of a follow-up Make Money promotion claiming breach of confidence and breach of contract. The Donovans accepted a £60,000 settlement but continued to pursue legal claims over a Shell Nintendo scratch off game and a film themed collector game called Now Showing. The further Writ was issued in October 1994. Shell settled both claims in October 1996. During the course of the litigation, the Donovans founded the Shell Corporate Conscience Pressure Group and what may have been the worlds first “gripe” websites. Shell referred to the Donovan’s internet activity in a  press statement issued on 17 March 1995. An article published on 11 June 1998 by The Daily Telegraph under the headline of “Donovan’s beef with Shell on-line” reported that “Donovan is publicising his gripes on two elaborate and colourful internet websites, don-marketing.com and shell-shareholders.org”.
On 23 April 1998, Marketing Week magazine published an article under the headline: “High Court papers unveil ‘secret’ Shell writ losses.” Coverage spread over a number of pages detailed three previous claims settled by Shell. In June 1999, a High Court trial commenced in respect of the new claim by John Donovan against Shell, this time relating to a loyalty programme utilising smart card technology for a multi-retailer scheme by Shell. The legal costs were estimated to be over a million pounds. Donovan also threatened to sue any business which joined the SMART scheme and also threatened related legal action against Shells UK petrol stations. According to a report in The Sunday Telegraph Shell Legal Director, Richard Wiseman, denied allegations made by Donovan against Shell and said that he was misguided and had been wrongly encouraged by Shells previous payments. Donovan alleged that Shell had used an undercover agent, Christopher Phillips, in the run up to the trial. According to The Sunday Telegraph report Shells lawyers admitted that they hired Mr Phillips, but only to carry out routine credit inquiries.
An article published in the July-August 1999 edition of “Incentive Today” under the headline “Don and Shell end Smart row” reported that both parties had issued a joint statement announcing that John Donovan had abandoned his claim against Shell. The article went on to discuss industry speculation that the Donovan litigation had been a barrier to a merger between Shell and Texaco. Shell had already signed a ‘Memorandum of Understanding‘ with Texaco but the merger never took place and in October 2000, Texaco instead agreed to a “$100 BILLION MERGER” with Chevron Corporation, one of Shell’s rivals.
According to an article published in February 2007 by Prospect magazine referring to the same “Smart” settlement, “Shell agreed to settle out of court, paying the Donovans a sum “in the thousands” as part of a “peace treaty” stipulating that neither party speak about the matter in future”. The article quotes Donovan as alleging that Shell subsequently broke the “peace treaty”.
Alfred Donovan and John Donovan are both retired from commercial activities. Their former company, Don Marketing, ceased trading several years ago. Their websites are all non-commercial; do not seek or accept donations, offer all services without charge, and carry no advertising.
Appeals to Shell shareholders, Shell employees, and the public
Royaldutchshellplc.com was described in an article published in February 2007 by Prospect magazine in the following terms: “The Donovan website has become an open wound for Shell”. It has been used to publish appeals on behalf of a number of parties who wanted to reach Shell shareholders and/or Shell employees, or the public e.g.
- An appeal for support by Friends of the Earth in the Netherlands was posted on the royaldutchshell.com website from 20 December 2006 for a campaign entitled shelladvert.org.
Royaldutchshellplc.com is also used to publish information by the National Union of Ogoni Students (NUOS) “an independent, non-profit entity that functions as the students unit of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP).” A letter from NUOS to President Olusegun Obasanjo of the Federal Republic of Nigeria was published on 17 December 2006. It demanded that the license granted Shell Oil to operate in Ogoni should be revoked. The following is an extract from the letter “the worlds’ most impoverished people inhabiting one of the world’s wealthiest span of land. This irony ridiculously fed by succeeding governments of Nigeria and Shell Oil Company is unacceptable.”  Shell has unsuccessfully attempted to promote a reconciliation process with the Ogoni which would allow Shell to recommence oil production in Ogoniland.
Connection with Shell Sakhalin-II project
Moves by the Russian government in relation to environmental issues concerning the Royal Dutch Shell led Sakhalin-II project in eastern Russia created an international furor, with representations made to President Vladimir Putin by Prime Minister Tony Blair and many other heads of government. On 18 October 2006, the Donovan’s published an article confirming they had for some time been supplying information to the Russian government relating to Sakhalin II. Information in the form of Shell internal emails and Shell insider comments, posted on Royaldutchshellplc.com, were passed by the Donovan’s to Oleg Mitvol, the Deputy Head of Rosprirodnadzor, the Russian Environmental Agency. In November 2006, Oleg Mitvol confirmed in an interview published in This Week in Argus FSU Energy that the evidence on which a prosecution against Sakhalin Energy claiming $10 billion in damages was being mounted, was supplied by John Donovan of royaldutchshellplc.com. Mr Mitvol was quoted as saying: “Who will take Sakhalin Energy to court? I will take them. I have documents proving that the Sakhalin Energy management was aware that the company violated technical standards, but carried on trying to meet project deadlines and refused to stop work. I am confident of winning my case in Stockholm. What documents are these? Where are they from? I have email correspondence between executives in Sakhalin Energy management from 2002. I received these letters from John Donovan, owner of the anti-Shell website www.royaldutchshellplc.com.” The Russian energy company Gazprom controlled by the Russian government subsequently obtained a majority holding in the Sakhalin-II project. A further report of the supply of evidence by John Donovan to Mitvol was published on 13 November 2006 by Johnson’s Russia List sourced from Interfax. According to an article published by Upstreamonline.com on 20 March 2008, under the headline “Shell reserves on a steady course”, Shell lost 402 boe – barrels of oil equivalent – as a consequence of “the sale of half its stake in the $20 billion Sakhalin 2 project”. An article published by The Boston Globe on 23 August 2008 said “Shell Oil was forced to yield control of its operations off Sakhalin Island in exchange for a payment of $7.4 billion from state-dominated Gazprom.” It went on to say “Most outside analysts estimate that Shell’s share was worth $15 billion to $17 billion.” The article was written by Marshall I. Goldman, senior scholar at the Davis Center for Russian Studies at Harvard, the author of “Petrostate: Putin, Power, and the New Russia.”
Sakhalin-II evidence submitted by the WWF to a House of Commons Select Committee in June 2008
In 2008 the Worldwide Fund for Nature submitted evidence to the Environmental Audit Select Committee of the House of Commons of the United Kingdom. The published minutes of evidence included reference to an article entitled: The Sakhalin-2 whistleblower warnings which proved to be 100% correct. The article authored by John Donovan was published on the website royaldutchshellplc.com on 6 January 2006.
The evidence put before the House of Commons Select Committee by the WWF in a Memorandum dated 20 June 2008 said: Allegations have been made by a whistleblower of inappropriate relationships between SEIC management and its contractors, in particular Starstroi and its subcontractor SU4. A link to the article in question (item 22) was printed at the foot of the Memorandum.
A link to Annexe II was contained in the Minutes of Evidence relating to oral evidence taken by the Environmental Audit Committee on 8 July 2008. Annexe II contained the same allegations with a link to same article. The information and link was also published as part of: “Uncorrected Evidence published by Hansard Archives Research House of Commons and House of Lords Publication Committees.”
Recommended by Fortune magazine for information about Royal Dutch Shell plc
On 2 August 2006, CNNMoney.com published a feature from Fortune magazine recommending books and websites focused on the world’s top five companies, as ranked in the “Fortune Global 500″. A company website with a corresponding website critical of the companys activities was featured for each multinational. For Royal Dutch Shell, listed as number 3 in the rankings, Shell’s portal website shell.com was cited along with royaldutchshellplc.com
Financial Times says website has long been a thorn in Shells side
On 6 June 2007, the Financial Times published a front page article under the headline: “Pipeliners All! Shells memo to Sakhalin
The article was about a leaked motivational memo in the form of an email from David Greer, the Deputy Chief Executive of Sakhalin Energy, the company in which Shell is a shareholder and former owner. The email was circulated to Sakhalin-2 staff. The article stated that “The memo was leaked to the website www.royaldutchshellplc.com, which has long been a thorn in Shells side. Shell confirmed the e-mail was genuine but was reluctant to discuss it further”. The article quoted extensively from the memo. The entire content of the leaked memo was published by the FT on the same date. The FT also conducted a separate online poll asking the question: “Is this the worst motivational memo ever?”
One passage in the motivational memo was so striking that Time Magazine published it in their Quotes of the Day feature on 6 June 2007: So Lead me, Follow me or Get out of my way; Success is how we bounce when we are on the bottom.
A keen eyed FT reader noticed that inspirational passages were appropriated from a famous speech given by the legendary U.S. General George S Patton, on 5 June 1944 on the eve of D-Day the Sixth of June. On 7 June 2007, a quarter page follow-up article was published in the Financial Times newspaper and on the FT.com website, under the headline: “Sakhalin motivational memo borrows heavily from Patton.
On 9 June 2007, The Moscow Times published a front page article under the heading: Sakhalin Pep Talk From ‘Old Blood and Guts’ The article said: Greer’s memo, which was leaked to an anti-Shell web site, Royaldutchshellplc.com, appears to show the pressure that he and his fellow managers have been under, as it talks of “the risk of becoming a team that doesn’t want to fight and lacks confidence in its own ability.” The Moscow Times article contained forthright comments by the Russian environmental watchdog, Oleg Mitvol, about the email.
On Monday 11 June 2007, the Financial Times published a further article on the subject this time headlined: Motivational memos must make their message clear. One of the opening paragraphs stated: The memo (www.ft.com/shell) is crass, poorly punctuated and most of it wasn’t even written by its author, David Greer, deputy chief executive of Royal Dutch Shell’s Sakhalin Energy Investment Company. He had lifted the words of General George S. Patton with no attribution, and clumsily adapted them to spur on his team of recalcitrant pipeline engineers.
On Friday 22 June 2007, The Moscow Times published a front page story with the headline: “Sakhalin Energy’s Greer Steps Down”. The article revealed that “A motivational e-mail written by Greer to staff working on the project, originally leaked to an anti-Shell web site, Royaldutchshellplc.com, was the subject of a front-page story in the Financial Times earlier this month.” It went on to say “David Greer, the Sakhalin Energy deputy CEO running the giant Sakhalin-2 oil and gas project, has left the company unexpectedly just weeks after a leaked e-mail he wrote revealed the pressure that managers working there were facing”. The article said that Greer had been a 27-year Shell veteran and was leaving to pursue other business interests.
A gripe site can have a profound impact on global organisations
An “Accountability in Action”  published in July 2007 by the One World Trust, an independent research organisation associated with the UK legislature and the United Nations, said: “As The Royal Dutch Shell plc website shows, a gripe site can have a profound impact on global organisations”. The newsletter went on to say: “The site has not only cost Shell billions of dollars in Russia… “even Shell insiders unhappy with the company use it”. The article also said: “Royaldutchshellplc.com is just one of many examples of how the Internet makes it possible for concerned individuals to initiate discussion about global organisations, post and share information about organisational actions and their impact, and provide a common forum for affected stakeholders. At the very least, gripe sites such as this have a valuable watchdog function and remind global companies of the power of public opinion thus forcing them to confront weaknesses in their own accountability”. Email correspondence in August 2007 between Royal Dutch Shell Plc and the owners of the website provide evidence of the unusual involvement by the website in the day-to-day functioning of the company.
Shell rattled and put on the back foot by joint Campbell/Donovan safety campaign
On 1 September 2007, the Daily Mail newspaper published an article about a Shell employee safety campaign conducted jointly by royaldutchshellplc.com and the former Group Auditor of Shell International, Mr Bill Campbell. The article headlined “Shell on backfoot as ‘gripe site’ alleges safety concerns” said: ROYAL Dutch Shell is getting rattled by a gripe site that alleges there are safety problems with its North Sea oil platforms.” The article revealed An internal Shell email admits the firm has been thrown on the back foot because of claims put forward on the Royaldutchshellplc.com website. It went on to say Campbell has emailed hundreds of MPs alleging Shell hasnt yet properly tackled health and safety failings. The article featured a number of quotes from Shell internal emails revealing a state of uncertainty at Shell about how to deal with the allegations. One stated: As it stands were on the back foot and our aim should be to develop a strategy (or options) that puts us in a more positive and secure position.
Reuters describes royaldutchshellplc.com as “unofficial company Web site”
On 4 September 2007, Reuters published an article by Tom Bergin headlined: “Shell loses exec on troubled Kazakh project-source.” The article said that a Royal Dutch Shell Plc executive “working on Kashagan, a project under pressure from the Kazakh government for being over budget and behind schedule, has quit, company sources told an unofficial company Web site.” The article went on to say that “John Donovan, who runs a Web site critical of Shell and acts as a conduit for whistleblowers at the company, said Shell insiders had told him that John Stubbs, a senior project manager on Kashagan, had left the Anglo-Dutch oil major.”
Sunday Telegraph article about “Online revolutionaries”
On 9 September 2007, the Sunday Telegraph published an article by Juliette Garside under the headline: “Online revolutionaries.” The opening sentence said: “Revolutions used to happen in the streets – these days they take place online. And the targets are more often big businesses than bad governments.” The article included a section about Royaldutchshellplc.com and its owners, “Alfred Donovan, now in his 90s, and his son John.” The article went on to say: “Their site became a hub for activists and disgruntled former employees. It has been used to mobilise support for environmental campaigns by the likes of WWF, the environmental lobbying group, against drilling in the Arctic and Russia, for groups worried about Shells social impact in Ireland and Nigeria, and by the companys former group auditor Bill Campbell to raise issues about employee safety.”
Essential reading for anyone who covers Shell
On 12 September 2007, an article was published on the Prospect Magazine website by a regular contributor, Derek Brower, who is also the senior correspondent of Petroleum Economist. Under the headline Shells Colchester headache, Brower reminded readers that In Prospects February issue, I reported on John and Alfred Donovan, two men with a combined age of 150 years in a house in Colchester who have been trying relentlessly to prick holes in one of the worlds biggest companies, Shell. They seem to be succeeding. Their website has become essential reading for anyone who covers Shell and the energy sector more broadly. It gets up to 4.6m hits a month. Brewer went on to report that the Donovans have found another ruse to annoy Shell: the Data Protection Act (DPA) and that So far, the company has surrendered two large folders, including an article about them by a director, a press release about them that the men claim is defamatory, and much else. The article also said that Shell has not released under the DPA a copy of an email about them from Shells senior lawyer to the Chief Executive Officer of Royal Dutch Shell, Jeroen van der Veer and was paying the law firm Simmons & Simmons to handle their DPA requests. It also reported that The company triedand failedto have their website closed down and revealed The Donovans say they have received CVs, business proposals, and even a terrorist threat sent to them: all were intended for Shell. (They kindly forwarded them on.) The last sentence in the article said: As journalists and disgruntled employees have realised, if you want to know whats up at one of the worlds biggest companiesor just want a good moan about the latest oil spillstart with www.royaldutchshellplc.com.
The Times reports Royal Dutch Shell at war with the Donovan family
On 22 September 2007, The Times newspaper reported “Since the 1990s, Royal Dutch Shell has been at war with a family who registered a website, royaldutchshellplc.com. The Donovan family, led by 90-year-old Burma veteran Alfred, perhaps quixotically want Shell to change its management.” The article said that Shell had “failed to shut down the site” which had attracted Shell job applications and even a terrorist threat “all of which are dutifully passed on to the company.” The article went on to say “there are signs that Shell is developing a sense of humour. A recent letter from general counsel there suggests that a truly alternative solution for all those people inadvertently contacting you is for you to choose a website and e-mail address without the word Shell in it.
BBC Essex interviews John Donovan
On 11 October 2007, BBC Essex presenter Etholle George interviewed John Donovan concerning the website royaldutchshellplc.com. The interview was introduced as being “the story of a high tech David and Goliath battle of the modern age.” Etholle George asked questions about the websites Live Chat feature saying “Ive got it up on my screen at the moment there are currently 32 people who are engaged in conversation on your website absolutely fascinating ” She later asked who the people were. The overall thrust of the questioning was that John Donovan must be obsessed to devote so much time to the website.
Nikkei BP says The fate of Sakhalin 2 was changed by two British men
On 12 November 2007, leading Japanese business magazine Nikkei BP published an internet article about the Donovans and their website, royaldutchshellplc.com under the headline: “Gripe sites are becoming more powerful”. It said The fate of Sakhalin 2 was changed by two British men, described as a 90-year-old man and his son a reference to Alfred Donovan and his son John. The author of the article, Ryo Kuroki, a Japanese novelist, said that he had recently visited them at their home in Colchester Essex, a town located in the South East of the UK. The article revealed that Alfred had fought against the Japanese army in the Burmese front as a communications officer.
The article went on to say that in October 2005 Donovans contacted Russian President Vladimir Putin through the Presidents website (The site has a function to send E-mail to the president). The purpose was to provide the president with insider information on the cost overrun of Sakhalin 2 project. It also mentioned the approach made to Oleg Mitvol, deputy head of Russias environmental watchdog Rosprirodnadzor and the later confirmation from Mitvol in his interview with Argus Media that the Russian side used the information provided by Donovans in negotiations with project sponsors of Sakhalin-II.
Ethiopian Jimma Times mentions website in article about Shell lawsuit
On 17 December 2007, an Ethiopian newspaper, the Jimma Times, published an internet article under the headline ETHIOPIAN Employees accuse Shell of raiding retirement fund reporting that A litigation was brought against Shell by a trade union representing 90% of its Ethiopian employees. It went on to reveal that www.royaldutchshellplc.com had published an article about the story and in reference to the website said: The organization says its objective is to persuade Shell management to stand by the Shell Statement of General Business Principles pledging among other things, honesty, integrity and transparency in all of its dealings.
Insider leaks news to RoyalDutchShellplc.com of thousands of IT job cuts at Shell
On 21 December 2007], Reuters published a news story with the headline: “Shell to cut thousands of IT jobs”. The article reported that Shell is going to outsource a substantial part of its information technology operations with the intention of cutting costs “in a measure that may result in thousands of job losses”. The article said “One employee told the Shell protest website RoyalDutchShellPlc.com that 3,200 jobs could be lost, but the spokeswoman declined to confirm the numbers.” It went on to say that an internal Shell email had been supplied to the website which listed the IT outsourcing companies in final talks with Shell on taking on different aspects of the business.
ITPro reported that news of Shell’s outsourcing plans came to light via an internal company email forwarded to an unofficial site dedicated to providing news and insider information about Shell”. The article said: Shell hasn’t yet put out an official announcement about its final IT outsourcing plans, but Michiel Brandjes, the company’s secretary has responded to an email he received from the site where the rumours surfaced. “The email is authentic,” he said in an email”. Mr Brandjes was also quoted as saying: “It is not a matter of a leak though. He said information about Shells plans had been in the public domain for some time.
According to a related article by Benoit Faucon of Dow Jones Newswires published on 24 December by CNNMoney.com, the IT job cuts could improve the credibility of Peter Voser, the Chief Financial Officer of Royal Dutch Shell Plc, to take over as Chief Executive of the company when the current CEO, Jeroen van der Veer, retires in June 2009. A Shell spokesperson was quoted as in the article as saying; “We are in the middle of commercial conversations and expect contracts to be signed early in 2008 – at which point we will share more details.” The article went on to say “The talks were first reported on the Web site royaldutchshellplc.com, which is critical of the company. That report said thousands of jobs – among staff or contractors – could be cut as result.”
The Times describes site as an independent website that monitors the company
On 25 January 2008, Carl Mortished, World Business Editor of The Times newspaper wrote an article headlined: Shell chief fears oil shortage in seven years in which he described the site as an independent website that monitors the company. The article revealed that Jeroen van der Veer, Shells chief executive had stated in an e-mail sent to Shell employees and reported on the royaldutchshellplc.com website, that output of conventional oil and gas was close to peaking. In the leaked email, van der Veer stated: Shell estimates that after 2015 supplies of easy-to-access oil and gas will no longer keep up with demand. This was an important acknowledgement of a pending Peak Oil crisis. It was subsequently picked up by many other publications because of its global significance.
The Wall Street Journal says website regularly used by Shell whistleblowers
On 18 March 2008, The Wall Street Journal published an article headlined Shell Addresses Output Issue”. The report by Guy Chazan indicated Shell had attempted to dampen concerns over its petroleum reserves but had declined to give an indication of production in the short term, indicating that output will increase after 2010. The article went on to say that Shell CEO Jeroen van der Veer had acknowledged the company’s share-price performance had lagged behind almost all its main rivals over past three years, an outcome Mr van der Veer said was a “disappointment.” The expression of his disappointment was contained in a memo sent by Mr. van der Veer to staff. The article said: A copy was given to royaldutchshellplc.com, a Web site regularly used by Shell whistleblowers. The memo revealed that Shell came in fourth out of five oil majors in terms of total shareholder return over the last three years, which measures share price growth and dividend payments. It said Shell lagged Exxon Mobil Corp, Chevron Corporation, and Total SA of France, though it was ahead of British major BP PLC. Although Mr. van der Veer had called the outcome a “disappointment,” he noted Shell’s business results over the last three years were “strong.”
royaldutchshellplc.com articles featured on Thomson Reuters website
From April 2008,Thomson Reuters, “the world’s largest international multimedia news agency”, has provided links on articles published on their website to related articles published on royaldutchshellplc.com. Many of the linked  articles relate to Royal Dutch Shell and other oil companies such as ExxonMobil, BP, Chevron and ConocoPhillips.
Letter leaked to royaldutchshellplc.com reveals 40% deficit in Shell Dutch pension fund news hits Shell share value
The Financial Times published an article on 12 December 2008 under the headline: Shell pension scheme value falls 40%. The article was based on a letter published by royaldutchshellplc.com, a website used to air complaints against Shell. The Shell letter to employees announced investments in Royal Dutch Shells Netherlands pension fund had fallen by 40% since the start of 2008 and as a consequence had fallen short of the Dutch regulatory minimum. The FT article indicated that the fund would need within 3 years billions of pounds to comply with Dutch regulations The article went on to say that although measure being taken will only affect Dutch pension scheme members, the financing will have an effect on Shell, which is listed in London. Shell confirmed to the FT that the fund had fallen into deficit and indicated, the deficit would have no effect on current pension payments, but could affect whether workers pensions kept pace with future inflation.
Reuters published an article on the same day covering the same news story under the headline: Shell pension underfunded, contributions rise. It reported that Royal Dutch Shell Plc’s’ Dutch pension fund has fallen into deficit as share market turmoil knocked 40 percent off the fund’s value, forcing the oil major and employees to increase contributions. The article stated: “Shell’s pension fund has commissioned a report to establish if its long-term strategy needs changing and will submit a recovery plan to the Dutch Central Bank, which is also the country’s pension regulator, next year.” The article also said: ‘”A full copy of the letter is published on activist website royaldutchshellplc.com.’” The Reuters syndicated article was published by several news organisations including the International Herald Tribune.
The following day, 13 December 2008, The Times published an article covering the economic downturn which said “Royal Dutch Shell A fell 49p to £17.50 after reports that its Dutch pension fund has fallen into deficit, with stock market turmoil knocking 40 per cent off its value.”
An article about a Bernard Madoff alleged fraud published by The Times on 18 December 2008, under the headline “Allegations in America pose threat to UK funds” stated: “The pension fund operated by the Netherlands branch of Royal Dutch Shell said that it had a $45 million exposure to the alleged fraud. The fund, which manages the retirement savings of thousands of Shell workers, is in deficit.”
Series of Reuters articles based on Shell insider information and internal emails leaked to royaldutchshellplc.com
On 30 January 2009 Reuters published an article under the headline: Shell gets tough on costs as oil prices bite. It reported that because of a collapse in oil prices Shell had intensified its cost-cutting and also planned to improve its mixed safety record. Shells head of Exploration and Production Malcolm Brinded told employees in an email seen by Reuters that staff had to make tough choices. A Shell spokesman had confirmed to Reuters that the emails, from Brinded and Royal Dutch Shell Chief Executive Jeroen van der Veer were genuine. The article said: Copies of the emails are available at www.royaldutchshellplc.com. Brinded demanded real action on cost cutting: Shed contractor staff, challenge requirements, eliminate consultancy work, reduce travel massively, cut overheads everywhere, he said.” Addressing safety issues, Brinded said Shell had a “dreadful start” to this year after 10 contractors and one third party were killed in three incidents. The email from Jeroen van der Veer said the company was intensifying its efforts on safety. The article was published by London Stock Exchange Plc and a number of news organisations, including the International Herald Tribune.
On 9 February 2009, Reuters published an article under the headline: INTERVIEW-Shell eyes Mid East growth, to cut some jobs A Reuters interview with Raoul Restucci, Shell’s head of exploration and production for the Middle East, on the subject of job cuts, resulted from leaked Shell insider information when employees posted comments on Shell protest website royaldutchshellplc.com saying up to half the jobs at the Dubai operation could go. The article also referred to the late January email from Malcolm Brinded urging sharp spending cuts. The article was also published by a number of news organisations, including GuardianOnline.
On 12 February 2009, Reuters published an article under the headline: Shell to stall hires, and get “ruthless” on contractors The article revealed the content of an email sent on behalf of Chris Haynes, Vice President Technical, Shell Exploration and Production. The content was in line with the cost-cutting drive detailed in the earlier leaked Shell internal emails, this time including the instruction to “Ruthlessly review third parties costs … Review necessity of contract staff as contracts expire, renew by exception only.” Shell declined to comment on the email. Reuters said: A copy of the email is available on Shell protest site royaldutchshellplc.com to which Shell employees often post comments. The article was published by many news sources, including the International Herald Tribune.
American newspaper describes royaldutchshellplc.com as world’s most effective adversarial web site
On 7 February 2009, an American newspaper, the Santa Barbara News-Press, published an article by Robert Eringer under the headline: Gripe sites are all the rage now The article, as indicated by the headline, dealt with the subject of gripe websites. It said: Alfred and John Donovan, a father and son in Colchester, England, several years ago established the world’s most effective adversarial Web site. Feeling aggrieved by treatment from the oil giant Shell, they created their site under the company’s name, www.royaldutchshellplc.com. It strives, on a daily basis, to expose Shell’s underside through research, investigation and leaks from inside Shell, which earned $35 billion in 2008. It went on to say in reference to the website: Our David has already given Goliath with its 100,000 employees and business in 140 countries the PR equivalent of two black eyes.”
Legal action by Shell relating to website
Due to an oversight, the management of the Royal Dutch Shell Group had not registered the dotcom name for the new company which resulted from the unification in 2005, of The “Shell” Transport and Trading Company Plc and the Royal Dutch Petroleum Company Limited. The domain name had already been registered by Alfred Donovan, who exploited a loophole which allows an online critic to legally use a dotcom domain name identical to a target company’s name or trademark. To fall within this category, the gripe site must be non-commercial, with no subscriptions and no paid advertising. To avoid being considered a cybersquatter the domain name and associated website must be active, with no attempt made to sell the domain name, especially to the company holding rights to the corresponding trademark or company name. Shell unsuccessfully attempted to obtain via WIPO proceedings, ownership of this address and two other Donovan owned domain names: royaldutchshellgroup.com and shellnews.net.
Eight Royal Dutch Shell Group companies collectively obtained in June 2004 an Interim Injunction and Restraining Order against a Shell whistleblower, a Malaysian geologist and former Shell employee, Dr John Huong, in respect of alleged defamatory postings attributed to Dr Huong on the Donovan website. The Shell action is directed solely against Dr Huong. Further proceedings against Dr Huong were issued by the same plaintiff companies in 2006 in respect of publications on the Donovan website in 2005 and 2006. The further proceedings include a “Notice to Show Cause” relating to a “contempt of court” action potentially punishable by imprisonment. Numerous proceedings have been issued by Shell in connection with the on-going litigation. On 6 August 2007, Mr Michiel Brandjes, Company Secretary and General Counsel Corporate of Royal Dutch Shell Plc kindly notified 90 year old Alfred Donovan that the Shell plaintiff companies had “on compassionate grounds” waived the right to cross examine him in relation to an affidavit he had supplied in the Dr Huong case.
- ^ Sunday Telegraph report (6 June 1999).
- ^ a b Rise of the gripe site Prospect magazine, February 2007
- ^ appeal for support
- ^ Letter from National Union of Ogoni students to President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria
- ^ Shell dialogue dead says mosop
- ^ Times Online report mentioning the case
- ^ News.com article
- ^ Press statement issued by Shell (17 March 1995).
- ^ CNN Executive bookmark