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Daily Telegraph: Shell pays $90m to settle staff suit

Daily Telegraph: Shell pays $90m to settle staff suit

“The class action was filed by current and former US employees who participated in certain savings plans.”

Wednesday 13 July 2005

By Philip Aldrick (Filed: 13/07/2005)

Shell, the oil and gas giant, yesterday agreed to pay $90m (£50m) to settle a lawsuit brought by employees last year following its reserves crisis.

The proposed settlement comes only two weeks after US federal prosecutors decided not to file a criminal charge against the Anglo-Dutch major after investigating the overstatements, citing its good co-operation.

Last year Shell admitted it had overstated its “proven” oil and gas reserves – a key indicator of future profits – by over 25pc, sparking a drop in the share price and a management shake-up.

The class action was filed by current and former US employees who participated in certain savings plans. They claimed the value of their pension benefits had been hurt by a drop in the share price, which fell up to 15pc in the two months that followed the restatements in January 2004. Shell said the proposed agreement was an “important step” towards putting litigation behind it.

Shell paid $120m in a settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission in the US last year and was also hit with a £17m fine by the Financial Services Authority – the heaviest penalty ever imposed by the UK regulator.

One London analyst said the proposed settlement was “absorbable” and should help Shell “draw a line under the reserves scandal”. However, it still faces two other related legal actions. Pending approval by the US Federal Court in New Jersey, Shell said it had agreed to pay more than $90m, of which around $25m is covered by insurance policies. It has also agreed to pay up to $1m of expenses for the plaintiffs’ counsel, New York-based Milberg Weiss.

Beat Hess, Shell’s legal director, said: “We are hopeful that the court will approve the settlement, which represents an important step toward putting litigation relating to the reserves recategorisations behind us.” Shell discovered last week that it would not face criminal charges from federal authorities in the US over the overstatement of its reserves. A federal prosecutor in the US said regulatory fines imposed on Shell and its willingness to co-operate with the investigation meant a prosecution would not be in the public interest.

The fiasco led Shell to propose ending its twin-board structure in the biggest shake-up in its history.

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