“Van de Veer was in a tricky situation. The Shell reputation was already in the gutter after the reserves debacle and Brinded was the white knight in shining armour who was to help in the recovery process.”
Introduction by John Donovan
Former Shell International HSE Group Auditor, Bill Campbell (above right), provides more information about the background to his career with Shell and why he blew the whistle on the Brent Bravo scandal.
By Bill Campbell
I left Shell in 2002 for health reasons and was granted VS on grounds of partial incapacity. During my 24 years with Shell I was promoted regularly and held senior positions. During that career I was never subject to any disciplinary action for wrongdoing or poor performance.
After I left Shell I was recruited by Shell International Exploration & Production to carry on conducting Audits and indeed, up till June 2006, held a contract with Shell which in June that year was extended for another two years. This was hardly the reaction of an employer that thought that their highly valued servant was making improper and totally unsubstantiated allegations re the conduct of its Managers and Directors both in 1999 and post the fatalities in 2003.
My argument is not with Shell per se but with a few unscrupulous self-serving individuals such as Malcolm Brinded.
In 2004/5 Directors were aware that I wished to present evidence detrimental to Shell reputation at the Brent Bravo Fatal Accident Inquiry and at my initiation carried out an independent internal investigation into the conduct of Brinded.
At a meeting I had in 2005 with the then Royal Dutch Shell CEO Jeroen van der Veer and his legal counsel, he accepted that there was as a causal link between the failure to follow up on a major audit in 1999 and the deaths, but could not accept that Brinded could be held accountable. Brinded he said did not sign permits, the implication of this statement was that any blame had to be directed towards local management nearer the coal face. I found this unacceptable. I left Van der Veer in no doubt that I would pass evidence to the Crown officials.
Van de Veer was in a tricky situation. The Shell reputation was already in the gutter after the reserves debacle and Brinded was the white knight in shining armour who was to help in the recovery process. If corporate homicide charges could be placed against him and his fellow Director Finlayson, then this would have enormous repercussions on Shell, the share price and the confidence in Shell by its stakeholders, including its employees.
In the submissions to Grampian police I made it clear that my employment with Shell was the best thing that ever happened to me and I described them generally as a wonderful Company to work for basically due to the quality of the people.
In discussions in 2006/7 with Shell legal counsel, I was described as a world class auditor and in searching into my background and career they could find many commendations about my ability and character. This legal counsel issued a draft statement accepting shortcomings in the Shell follow up to the 1999 audit but this was never issued as a press release although it is held as evidence by the Crown and the police. All this was witnessed and corroborated by an independent person. I also was able to get Brinded through this process to apologise for the abhorrent way he treated his Aberdeen auditors in 1999, all this is listed in great detail in a sworn testimony given to the Lord Justice general for Scotland many moons ago.
I have always had some sympathy with Van der Veer, what would you have done?, it was either the destruction of the Company reputation or destruction of the reputation of a solitary but loyal employee who had consistently explained his action, well in advance of taking those actions. Many might agree Van der Veer had little choice, but it’s hardly the position of a Company that regularly declares that at its core is honesty and integrity and respect and regard for the health and safety of its employees.
Concluding comment by John D.
Bill has not commented on the Shell internal call to arms – the setting up of a related counter-measures team – we discovered in a Shell internal document obtained as part of a legal application made to Shell. Bill’s name was redacted from the document by Shell lawyers. Shell was trying to work up the courage to demonstrate that it would not “tolerate the Donovans’ approach unchallenged any longer”, but here we are still at it 5 years later. The only challenge is from people hiding behind aliases who make troll type postings on our Shell Blog.