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Shell pays $9m to settle investor lawsuit

The Guardian (UK): Shell pays $9m to settle investor lawsuit

“Shell still faces a much larger and potentially damaging class action from a wider group of shareholders as well as investigations by the operator of the Dutch stock market, Euronext, and a state regulator in California.”

Friday Sept 02, 2005

TERRY MACALISTER

Shell has been forced to pay out $9.2m (pounds 5m) in legal fees and make changes to its corporate governance structure as part of a settlement with disgruntled shareholders.

The case pending in New York and New Jersey courts followed the January 2004 statement from Shell that it had overstated its oil and gas reserves in filings with the US regulator, the securities and exchange commission.

Shell still faces a much larger and potentially damaging class action from a wider group of shareholders as well as investigations by the operator of the Dutch stock market, Euronext, and a state regulator in California.

But Shell legal director Beat Hess said the settlement was important. “We are pleased to have taken another step to ward putting the reserves categorisation behind us and to have done so in a way that contributes to Shell’s commitment to the highest standards of corporate governance, compliance and integrity.”

The oil company was unwilling to provide details of the exact changes agreed in its structure, although industry sources believed they were relatively insignificant given a wider restructuring already undertaken by Shell.

But its statement said the changes “include policies and standards in the areas of board composition and qualifications, membership and functions of board committees, director and senior management compensation”.

Bruce Evers, an oil analyst with Investec Securities, said it was good for the company to be able to look forward rather than back, but believed the physical replacement of lost reserves was a much more important issue now. “The cost of exploration and development is soaring as there is a shortage of drilling rigs, helicopters and another vital pieces of equipment,” he said.

Shell has set itself ambitious targets of increasing its output but has had no significant boosts such as the one rival BP received in Russia by taking over TNK.

Meanwhile Shell said yesterday it planned to take a 61% stake in a joint-venture firm that would invest $150m in exploring and developing shale deposits in north-east China.

A further $100m would go on a second phase of development if it could be proved such a scheme to help meet the country’s growing energy demand was commercial.

guardian.co.uk/oil

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