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THE TIMES (City diary): Hostile domain

THE TIMES (City diary): Hostile domain

By Martin Waller

June 21, 2005

ROYAL DUTCH/SHELL is locked in a dispute with an 88-year-old war veteran who saw action in the Burma campaign and now runs a website,, that publishes material critical of the oil company.

The roots of the row between Shell and Alfred Donovan go back to the early 1990s and have to do with earlier marketing campaigns. Mr Donovan and his son John say they do not want money for the site, which Shell unaccountably failed to register.

But they will not hand over the rights to the domain name until the company “gets rid of the management” responsible for its various woes, notably last year’s reserves scandal. (I thought they had.) Shell is going to the Geneva-based arbiter of such disputes next month to try to strip the Donovans of the right to the name.

It all brings to mind the delightful tale of John Bunt, his car and another huge oil company. Bunt “cybersquatted” BP after his vehicle was damaged in one of the company’s carwashes, displaying pictures of the wreck on his website and abusing the company. The Donovans might note that Bunt eventually won.


By Alfred Donovan

Some clarification in relation to the Martin Waller article published in the City diary column on Tuesday 21 June 2005 under the headline: Hostile Domain.

According to the article, I will not hand over my rights to the domain name until Shell gets rid of the management responsible for the reserves scandal and other “various woes”. Mr Waller seems to be a little puzzled by the position he attributes to me as he indicates that he thought Shell had already done this i.e. had already got rid of those deemed at fault.

In fact some of the most senior executives at Shell within the so called “new management” are Shell veterans tainted by past events, including the reserves debacle. For example, Shell Group Chairman Jeroen van der Veer and his Deputy, Malcolm Brinded, are Defendants in a US Class Action Law Suit alleging they both signed a Form 20-F declaration submitted to the US Securities & Exchange Commission “knowing that the reports were materially false or recklessly disregarded their truth or falsity.” The relevant court papers can be viewed in their entirety on my website. A criminal investigation of these matters by the US Justice Department is still underway.  Surely under the circumstances, Royal Dutch Shell PLC would have been much better off with a genuine fresh start?

Speaking as a long term Shell shareholder, I will not cease my anti-Shell management campaigning activities until management abides by its own much proclaimed code of business ethics, the Statement of General Business Principles, pledging honesty, integrity and openness in all of Shell’s dealings. If Shell management had practiced what it preached, there would have been no Brent Spar debacle, no reputational damage arising from Shell’s activities in Nigeria and no reserves scandal.

Returning to the domain name dispute, since Shell management reportedly spent $115 million in professional fees setting up the proposed merger, it would seem that someone must have been slightly remiss, to say the least, in not registering the domain name.  After all, Shell knew before anyone else its plans to use the name Royal Dutch Shell Plc.  This latest glaring blunder hardly inspires confidence.

Finally, I would just point out that I have never offered or sold any domain name to Shell or anyone else and have no plans to do so. Nor have I profited in any way from my website other than the satisfaction of using it as a low cost platform to exercise my rights to freedom of expression.  Although physically frail, I can still deal a blow or two as a cyber-warrior.

This website and sisters,,,, and, are owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia segment.

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