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Dusting off the Shell BP merger files

Screen Shot 2015-01-22 at 21.22.36Shell and the forerunner of BP bribed a famous politician to facilitate a merger 

According to Sir Martin Gilbert, the official biographer of Winston Churchill, Royal Dutch Shell and BP (then called Burmah Anglo-Persian Oil Company), were in merger discussions in 1923.

Extract from a BBC News Magazine article published 22 Jan 2015

10. Cash for influence

“In return for a fee of £5,000 two oil companies, Royal Dutch Shell and Burmah Anglo-Persian Oil Company [later BP], asked him to represent them in their application to the government for a merger,” Gilbert’s official biography stated.

By modern British political standards, the 1923 payment would be considered highly inappropriate.

Churchill, whose “political career was in the doldrums” at the time, according to a history of British Petroleum, agreed to use his parliamentary influence to raise the issue in return for money.

“But I’d be careful about calling it a bribe,” Toye says. “He accepted all sorts of gifts, which in today’s culture of full disclosure would get you expelled from the Commons. But those rules were not in place at the time.”

The Register of Members’ Interests was introduced in 1975. “You can argue that it was a conflict of interest, you can even argue that it was wrong, but you can’t call it a bribe in the sense that it was actually illegal,” Toye says.

“Politicians’ links with business and the media weren’t under the same level of scrutiny as they were then,” says Packwood, “he was operating in a slightly different ethical environment.”

(FROM: The 10 greatest controversies of Winston Churchill’s career by Tom Heyden, BBC News Magazine)

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