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Fired Shell CEO gets big severance

East Texas Review: Fired Shell CEO gets big severance

“Shell had been cooking its books Enron-style, claiming to own way more oil reserves than it actually has.”: “Thieves In High Places”

By Jim Hightower/Special to ETR

Posted 10 Sept 04

Getting fired is one of the sourest experiences you can have – unless, of course, you’re the head honcho of a major corporation. Far from being sour, getting booted from the top suite can be a mighty sweet experience.

Take the recent case of Sir Philip B. Watts, the former chairman of Shell Oil, which is based in London. He became known to many as Sir Philip the Finagler after it was discovered in an internal investigation that, on his watch, Shell had been cooking its books Enron-style, claiming to own way more oil reserves than it actually has. Thanks to this illegal accounting, the company now faces several investigations, major fines, and class-action lawsuits.

I say, old boy, a bit of a sticky wicket, that! So sticky that last March, Shell’s board asked Sir Philip to depart, leave, go away, skittle-skattle. But now it has been revealed that the board generously eased the egress of Chairman Watts by handing him a sweet severance package of $1.9 million. Imagine what he would’ve gotten had he simply been Phil Watts and was a worker bee down in Shell’s accounting hierarchy. But why have a title if it doesn’t bring you special treatment?

So instead of being cuffed and hauled out of the building by the bobbies, Sir Philip got a golden parachute to soften his landing. His severance package was the least of it. In addition, he’ll also have a million-dollar annual pension to comfort him, a stock award worth another million bucks, and a $1.5 million salary payment. Talk about enjoying your golden years!

If you own some Shell stock, you might share the outrage of other stockholders at this cavalier giveaway of your corporate funds. Pensions Investment Research Consultants is a London firm that represents institutional shareholders, and it’s demanding new rules to give stockholders the power to approve or reject such golden parachutes. To connect with them, go to

Jim Hightower is the best-selling author of “Thieves In High Places: They’ve Stolen Our Country And It’s Time To Take It Back,” on sale now from Viking Press. and its sister websites,,,,, and are all owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia article.

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