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Creating value through entrepreneurial management of hydrocarbon resource values: fraud

Financial Times: Lex: Royal Dutch/Shell

“Creating value through entrepreneurial management of hydrocarbon resource values” could be the title of just another jargon-filled memo. The fact that the paper was written at Royal Dutch/Shell in May 1998 and led to a relaxation of reserve guidelines lends it a more ironic slant.”: “The findings further damage the oil group’s battered reputation.”

Published: August 24 2004 19:00

Posted 25 August 04

“Creating value through entrepreneurial management of hydrocarbon resource values” could be the title of just another jargon-filled memo.

The fact that the paper was written at Royal Dutch/Shell in May 1998 and led to a relaxation of reserve guidelines lends it a more ironic slant. Unfortunately, Shell’s management focused more on the entrepreneurial aspects than the value-creating ones.

The document is mentioned in the Financial Services Authority’s report on Shell, which found it guilty of market abuse. Shell has been fined £17m by the FSA and $120m by the Securities and Exchange Commission in a simultaneous settlement. The findings further damage the oil group’s battered reputation. Shell was warned by internal reports as early as January 2000 that its reserves bookings were suspect a reminder of just how long the cover-up lasted.

Most damning of all is the regulators’ conclusion on why Shell overstated its reserves; namely “its desire to create and maintain the appearance of a strong reserve replacement ratio”. Investors can dismiss explanations about differing interpretations of imprecise SEC guidelines. This conclusion suggests clear intent.

Helped by record-high oil prices, Shell’s share price has recovered most of the ground lost in the wake of the reserves scandal. Reputations, however, can take longer to repair. There may be further financial repercussions. Class action lawsuits against Shell will only be strengthened by the regulators’ conclusions.

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