By John Donovan
A letter emailed to Royal Dutch Shell Plc Chief Executive Officer, Ben van Beurden, on 23 Oct 2014, from the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission, asked why Shell had omitted to supply in a Form 20-F filing, figures for Shell’s share of Kashagan proved undeveloped reserves.
Shell’s partners in the much troubled Kashagan oil field consortium – years behind schedule and billions over budget – include Eni, KazMunayGas, Total, ExxonMobil, China National Petroleum Corporation and Inpex. The project is known in the oil industry as “Cash All Gone”.
It is plain from the overall content of the correspondence that the SEC is keeping a very close watch on Shell’s claimed reserves following the huge reserves scandal in 2004. Shell had tried to fool the markets by overstating its reserves and paid the penalty in massive fines imposed by the SEC and the UK Financial Services Authority. Add to that the dramatic resignations of several main RDS executive directors, including the Group Chairman, Sir Philip Watts, and class action litigation that went on for several years.
There is a link since Ben van Beurden was, at the time of the great scandal, personal assistant to Sir Philip. Simon Henry, the current RDS Chief Financial Officer, was also involved, but escaped retribution.
Shell did respond to the SEC letter, but asked the SEC to treat the information supplied as being confidential.