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TellShell: Should Shell sue The Independent newspaper for libel?

TellShell: Should Shell sue The Independent newspaper for libel?

By Alfred Donovan

Posted 12 Sept 04

I have no wish to monopolise the TellShell forum, but I really must comment on the news report by The Independent newspaper (11 Sept 04) that Shell gave $500,000 towards the cost of the lavish Royal wedding in Brunei. The report states: “The Asian wing of Royal Dutch Shell allegedly bunged in 500,000 Brunei dollars (about pounds 160,000).” The $500,000 gift has also been reported in other newspapers.

“Bunged” of course implies backhander, sweetener, kickback or bribe. If the news report is erroneous and Shell has not in fact “bunged in $500,000” towards the costs of the Royal marriage, will Shell be suing The Independent for libel?

Conversely, if the report is true, how on earth is the alleged “bung” to a Royal family already tainted by scandal, compatible with Shell’s Statement of General Business Principles which expressly prohibits corrupt practices, including bribes?

I appreciate that there are difficult decisions to be made in our hard nosed commercial world, but Shell management cannot have it both ways. Management should either abide by Shell’s own ethical code, or if it wants to make “bungs”, it should scrap the code entirely so that no one will in future be misled by Shell’s promises of honesty, integrity and transparency in all of its dealings.

An interesting reaction from a citizen of a neighbouring Country of Brunei is that Shell’s gesture (the alleged “bung”) has humiliated Asian culture and traditions by not being discreet. In other words my friend is of the opinion that Shell should not have brazenly exploited the “gift” for PR purposes, as appears to be the case.

One last comment on recent events: When will Shell management explain to the investing community its strategy in disposing of assets, one after another, on an international basis, in what appears akin to a fire sale? It is happening so fast and on such a large scale that investors may well become further alarmed. and its sister websites,,,,, and are all owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia article.

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