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Shell to pay Walter van de Vijver €3.8m

Financial Times: Shell to pay Walter van de Vijver €3.8m

By Carola Hoyos and Sundeep Tucker in London

13 August 04

Royal Dutch/Shell, the Anglo-Dutch oil and gas group, has agreed to pay Walter van de Vijver, its former head of exploration and production, €3.8m ($4.6m) in severance.

Shell investors, however, said they were more interested in the company’s new willingness to unify its boards and make other changes to its corporate structure.

William Claxton-Smith of Insight Investment said of the pay-off: “This is not a huge issue in the minds of shareholders. We believe Shell is doing what it has to do.”

Other investors said they were focused on the governance review, which goes so far as to look at the merits of a full-scale merger between the Dutch and UK arms. The five members of Shell’s governance reform steering committee, two from the group’s UK supervisory board and three from its Dutch counterpart, appear to be unifying around a “roots and branches reform” that would go further than investors had expected and could include a move from a 40/60 Anglo/Dutch shareholder structure to a 50/50 one.

One investor said: “It is encouraging that they have ruled nothing out. But the answer to Shell’s problems is not just structure. The culture and internal politics that impact on day-to-day management is the most pressing issue.”

Mr van de Vijver agreed to resign in March, two months after Shell revealed it had wrongly booked 20 per cent of its oil and gas reserves with the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

Sir Philip Watts, the company’s former chairman who resigned the same day, was awarded a severance of £1m ($1.8m). Neither received performance-related bonuses in 2003 or 2004.

Mr van de Vijver’s package was said to have been larger because his career at Shell was cut short by 12 years. It is payable in instalments and is subject to his continued co-operation with authorities investigating the matter.

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