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The Guardian: Downstream do: ‘worry that Shell is in denial’

The Guardian: Downstream do: ‘worry that Shell is in denial’

17 June 2004

Its tempting to believe that Shell has chosen to hold its annual meeting on June 28 in London’s Docklands for the first time this year so that fewer investors will bother to make the long trek to east London in order to give management a hard time.

The company insists the change of the meeting’s date – which was put back following the reserves scandal – made it hard to find another suitable venue at short notice.

Meanwhile the formal resolutions for the occasion do not suggest any wild confrontations ahead. After the initial flurry of lawsuits from angry American shareholders, the Anglo-Dutch group has pretty much been left alone by the rest of its investors to undertake a promised review of its board and management structures.

Shell has been holding meetings with investors and has been open about the scale of its difficulties and its determination to deal with them.

But there has been an absence of information on exactly how its critical review is taking place, what issues are being considered and who precisely has been doing the reviewing.

This has left some to worry that Shell is “in denial” about the scale of its problems and still struggling to escape its former culture of secrecy. The big American investor, Calpers, and the experienced shareholder activist, Knight Vinke, broke cover yesterday by writing a long and sharp letter to Shell via the pages of the FT.

The oil major is expected to respond directly to some of the issues today or tomorrow but it does not bode well for the leviathan that its responses only appear after so much public prodding.

Nearly half a year has passed since Shell sullied its blue chip reputation by announcing a 20% reduction in its reserves base. The annual meeting is the opportunity to convince us – at last – that more has changed besides the names of a few directors.

Shell Transport chairman Lord Oxburgh is certainly switched on to the reality of climate change – today’s Life section carries the full details.

Let’s hope he is being equally clear-headed about the need for profound change within his own organisation.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/story/0,3604,1240515,00.html

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