By John Donovan
On 13 April I received a serious allegation by “David Byrne” made against Shell CEO Ben van Beurden. It was submitted for posting on the Shell Blog.
The comments in question will not be published unless verifiable supporting evidence is supplied. In that event, I would investigate further. I invite “David Byrne” to provide such evidence.
As far as I am aware in relation to the OPL 245 corruption scandal, BvB is guilty only of cover-up tactics, gross hypocrisy and a failure to take proactive measures to deal with the unfolding PR debacle.
In regards to the latter, his blunder was not as bad as that made by United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz regarding the unfortunate passenger, 69-year-old Dr David Dao. We have all seen the video clips. United Airlines will itself need reconstructive surgery to recover from a global PR calamity.
The cover-up tactics by BvB were his instinctive crisis reaction to the raid being carried out at Shell HQ, which must have come as a major shock. His revealing remarks were made during a telephone conversation with his then colleague Simon Henry, not knowing that they were being recorded by law enforcement authorities from the Netherlands and Italy.
The cover-up tactics discussed in the call are totally at odds with Shell’s claimed core business principles – hence the additional charge of gross hypocrisy.
I do know that throughout the reign of BvB as CEO Shell has been aware of the warning signals about the OPL 245 scandal. News articles covering the scandal go back to June 2013, almost coinciding with his appointment as Chief Executive Officer. Links to some examples are provided below. Up to that time, he had no involvement in the OPL 245 deal
However, the current reputational nightmare should have been foreseen. Action should have been taken long ago to investigate (Shell has an army of security professionals) and deal with the matter proactively, rather than leaving the situation to be exposed in such a shocking fashion undermining the confidence of shareholders.
Perhaps Van Beurden was distracted by the British gas deal and ruthlessly making thousands of loyal employees staff redundant. If that is the case, he is also guilty of incompetence and negligence.