By John Donovan
The current out of control situation for Shell in relation to the website royaldutchshellplc.com speaks volumes about the laughable incompetence of its senior management and Shell’s army of in-house and external lawyers.
First we have the extraordinary endorsement by Shell of the website in an email sent to Fox News..
“John and Alfred Donovan well known in UK / Hague. They perceive Shell played them and so have made it their mission to embarrass, belittle and criticize Shell, which they do quite well. Their website, royaldutchsellplc.com is an excellent source of group news and comment and I recommend it far above what our own group internal comms puts out.”
(Much more about the Fox News/ Bill O’Reilly extensive email correspondence about us and our website will follow shortly.)
More recently, a Shell internal email dated 15 July 2009 reveals the disarray and concern following our scoop in breaking the news about Peter Voser’s reorganization plan’s. The high level author of the email raises questions about rooting out the dozen high level execs feeding us with inside information. It asks if anyone has engaged with the Donovans “to try to bring them on side of get them to tone down their anti Shell stance?” It also asks: “are you doing anything to get the website shut down.”
A Shell internal email dated Friday 19 June 2009 reveals that Shell long ago decided not to take legal action against the site. This came as no surprise. We put it to Royal Dutch Shell Ethics Chief Richard Wiseman in November 2008 that we are immune from defamation proceedings by Shell. He denied this but what else could he do? The relevant email correspondence is printed below.
So we are completely free to say what we like about Shell and its useless top brass without worrying about any possible legal consequences from the nasty polluting, conniving, ruthless, greedy, underhand, unethical oil giant. Shell knows us well enough to know we would never take advantage of this unique privilege. We point out how Malcolm Brinded has the blood of Shell offshore employees on his hands and has supported corrupt predatory practices against weaker companies, but have the evidence to support the allegations.
As you can imagine, by this stage Shell executives and employees dealing with these matters must be frightened about putting down anything in print in case it ends up in our hands.
Quite frankly, with the help of Shell insiders around the globe, we are running rings around Shell senior management and its lawyers. This has not gone unnoticed by the media. I have been inundated with requests for interviews. The results will be seen in January.
As the headline correctly states, there is complete and utter disarray at Royal Dutch Shell.
And we have tons of ammunition to relaunch our leafleting campaign at Shell Centre in the New Year.
EXTRACTS FROM AN EMAIL TO RICHARD WISEMAN FROM JOHN DONOVAN: 24 November 2008 00.59
Is it correct as you imply that I am completely safe against legal retribution? Why should that be the case? Shell is not short of resources, being worth over $200 billion and having a 700 plus army of in-house lawyers. Shell would surely be in breach of its fiduciary duty to shareholders if it failed to sue me and\or the website for libel if any comment directed against you as a very senior officer of the company, or against Shell, is untrue. You also have a personal right to sue on the same basis if grounds genuinely exist. Shell, or yourself, could sue me for defamation in the UK where I am a citizen, or in the USA where the website is hosted.
Your comment implies that we enjoy prosecution immunity from Shell in relation to defamation laws. Is this because of a lingering affection for us after 28 years of contact, or is it due to the volume of evidence of serious misdeeds by Shell we have accumulated over latter years, including sensitive and incriminating Shell internal documents.
The apparent prosecution immunity is in line with a written statement given to The World Intellectual Property Organisation by Shell International Petroleum Company Limited in May 1995, saying in reference to our website RoyalDutchShellPlc.com:
The Group have been aware of the site since the beginning and whilst they would not endorse or agree with many of the comments made by the Respondent on the website, they have taken the view that the Respondent is entitled to express his opinions and to use the Internet as a medium for doing so.
Further evidence of our apparent prosecution immunity from a Shell libel action comes from the draconian defamation case collectively brought against the former Shell production geologist Dr John Huong by EIGHT companies within the Royal Dutch Shell Group. As you are aware, the action is in respect of alleged defamatory comments published on our website in June 2004. We wrote to the High Court Judge in Malaysia (and to Shell) within days of the proceedings being issued informing him that the alleged defamatory passages cited by Shell were authored by us, not by Dr Huong. Despite our admission, Shell proceeded to bury Dr Huong in multiple injunctions, including threatening him with imprisonment for alleged contempt of court. The case is now dragging on into its fifth year without even reaching the discovery stage. In the meantime, Dr Huong has been unable to obtain a job while the litigation cloud hangs over the heads of him and his family. Shells failure to prosecute the case on a timely basis is a gross breach of the UN Declaration of Universal Human Rights that Shell purports to support.
Perhaps Shell has granted us immunity from libel laws as a reward for treating the company so fairly. As Michiel Brandjes will confirm, we did not publish an article when he politely asked us not to do on special grounds. As recently as 30 October 2008, we did not publish another article. Its author had sent a draft to Peter Voser and other Shell executives. It was intelligently and competently written but we deemed the content inappropriate for publication. We also routinely give Shell the opportunity to consider draft articles and supply related comment for publication on an unedited basis and to point out any categorically untrue allegations. No other publisher treats Shell so fairly.
Have you granted us immunity because Shell recognises the unofficial Shell website fulfils a genuine need? In this regard, we were delighted to recently receive an unsolicited email from Shell Ethiopian employees praising the website for assisting their cause and helping to bring about a settlement of their legal action alleging Shell was selling its Ethiopian employees like slaves.
However, if we are wrong in interpreting Shells actions as granting us immunity from defamation laws in the way described, please advise us accordingly so there is no misunderstanding. Conflicts can arise from misunderstandings.
EXTRACT FROM WISEMAN RESPONSE 24 November 2008 14.02
There is of course no immunity from suit for you or any of our other detractors and neither you, nor anyone who repeats what you say, should assume otherwise.
There is one mistake. The Shell Statement to The World Intellectual Property Organisation was made in May 2005, not May 1995 as stated above.