Royal Dutch Shell Plc  .com Rotating Header Image A climate of fear among Shell employees

By Alfred Donovan 

We have featured a number of news stories recently relating to the Shell Brent Bravo scandal. Shell has admitted responsibility for the tragic deaths of two oil workers, Keith Moncrieff, 45, and Sean McCue, 22, who died after being overcome with gas on the Brent Bravo platform in 2003. A record breaking £900,000 UK pounds fine (over $1.5 million USD), was imposed on Shell for breaches of Health & Safety regulations. 

The news reports (two examples below) resulted in some related postings and emails on this  website from people with an interest in Shell, including current and former employees. 

BBC News: Shell ‘ignored accident warning’:Former senior manager Bill Campbell, who led a safety review, claimed the company ignored his warning in 1999 that an accident was bound to happen. Four years later two men were killed by a gas leak on the Brent Bravo platform.” 

The Scotsman: Shell ‘endangered’ oilrig workers’ lives:SHELL endangered the lives of hundreds of staff by operating North Sea oil platforms that were known to have “dangerously high levels of risk”, according to a former senior manager with the British-Dutch company.”: “Bill Campbell, one of Shell’s top maintenance engineers compiled the report in 1999…” 

On 16 June 2006, Tom Bergin, Reuter’s European Oil and Gas Correspondent, posted a message indicating that he would like to make contact with Bill Campbell, the former senior Shell manager quoted in the above articles.  We have the email address for Mr Bergin if Mr Campbell reads this article and would like to contact him. 

We found the following comment on our “Live Chat” facility: “We all know that Campbell’s statements are correct. Wrong behaviour has been introduced by the top brass who wanted to score points. If you piss off people who have some criticism and reward people who make nice promises, the culture soon changes.” 

SOME EMAIL EXTRACTS: “We all know Campbell is spot on with his observations but nobody dares say so because their career would be over and Shell will never admit else some senior people might go to jail.”  “The underperformance of Aberdeen is enormous. Shell will continue to pay off the victims in order to keep the stuff out of the law.” “There are many skeletons still coming out of the cupboards. As mentioned during the formation of EPE, the Shell Expro maintenance philosophies and way of working was rammed down our throat (by Tom Botts) despite evidence that NAM was miles ahead with maintenance. We could predict and track costs and activities on a small scale. The Expro system was very old fashioned.”   “In Expro people have been beaten into submission and I recall an incident about 3 years ago. It happened in Expro. A spanner or something fell into a big pipeline. This is very difficult and costly to remove but it had to come out. So a group of operators decided that one of them would enter the pipe (crawling) and retrieve the piece of junk. He managed to get stuck!!! Only with a huge effort could the others pull him out. And then it comes: they decided to hush this incident up. (In the end it all came out anyhow because one cannot keep secrets too long). This is a strict no-no because that way others cannot learn from mistakes. A true sign of poor behaviour, created by the senior management. People entering in a closed environment (vessels, pipelines etc) in the gas business goes with very great precaution measures. Elaborate protocols. All this was not done, and they became cowboys. This macho behaviour is one of the prime killers in our industry. One cannot beat it out of people, one must take years of education and building trust to get that out of the system. A thing like that would never have happened in NAM. Furthermore about a year ago 2 people died in an explosion in NAM (Maintenance is now run from Aberdeen you know). They put a torch on a vessel that contained gas. This was simply inconceivable to happen in the former NAM. It amplifies what Campbell is saying. And believe me, I know Bill Campbell, he is a true professional. Strange he only dares speak out after he left Shell. His conscience must have been playing up too much. But another sign that criticism was relentlessly pushed aside.” 


It is plain from the above extracts that a climate of fear exists at Shell. Warnings are self evidently ignored by management.  Shell management really does not want to receive criticism or whistleblowing from Shell employees (or shareholders) no matter how much proof is provided. 

Evidence of this policy comes from Shell’s decision to suspend, in November 2005, the Tell Shell Forum in its blog form which allowed Shell customers, shareholders and employees to post comments, supposedly on an uncensored basis.  The censorship free policy ended after the reserves fraud when lots of critical postings began to appear. Shell subsequently deleted a posting from a disgruntled Shell employee without leaving any trace that it had ever appeared on the forum. In November 2005, Shell International Petroleum General Counsel, Richard Wiseman, confessed in an email to me that Shell had indeed resorted to censorship. Within days the forum was suspended indefinitely and has remained so ever since.  Such repressive conduct comes as no surprise to me. I warned for years about a corporate culture of cover-up and deceit at the very highest levels of Shell management. No one could have tried harder to ring the alarm bells far and wide. Shell management retreated behind a wall of lawyers, while simultaneously fiddling the reserves figures and hiding the truth from Shell shareholders and the public. 

Shell geologist, Dr John Huong blew the whistle in regards to hydrocarbon reserves and Heath & Safety issues. His written warnings about the safety of Shell’s helicopter fleet were ignored: a helicopter subsequently crashed. Fortunately no one was killed. Instead of heeding Dr Huong’s warnings, he was sacked and humiliated. EIGHT Royal Dutch Shell companies subsequently got together to bury him in litigation: multiple injunctions, restraining orders and more recently, contempt of court proceedings. Shell has been determined to silence him at all costs, even resorting to terror tactics against him and his family e.g. legal proceedings served at his home in the dark of night, threatening his imprisonment

It now appears that Bill Campbell’s warnings were also disregarded. This time it cost two lives.  

The first port of call for any would be whistleblower would likely be the Chief Ethics and Compliance Officer of Royal Dutch Shell plc, Jyoti Munsiff. However, Miss Munsiff is far removed from being an impartial upholder of ethics and morals. As Company Secretary of Shell Transport, she acted with Shell Chairman Sir Mark Moody-Stuart and Richard Wiseman, to prevent important information from reaching Shell shareholders. In other words, she engaged in a cover-up. Ask yourself why none of these individuals, or Shell itself, has taken action against me for defamation. This is what they would undoubtedly have done if what I have said previously, and repeat now, was unfounded. I have the documents to prove what I say is true. 

No whistleblower aware of the track record of Jyoti Munsiff is going to reveal confidential information to her. She is part and parcel of a discredited management beset by scandal and misdeeds, including the sponsorship of undercover operations against its perceived enemies; operations which involved deception, treachery and sabotage. Check out the link below. 

(MI6 ‘Firm’ Spied on Green Groups (Sunday Times archive article: 17 June 2001)

It was not clear in the Sunday Times article that astonishingly, Shell senior directors were also directors and major shareholders in the relevant private spy firm: Hakluyt.

In Nigeria, Sir Philip Watts armed a private Police force and conspired with a ruthless and corrupt military regime in the suppression of peaceful dissent by a people whose natural resources have been plundered and their homeland polluted. According to an article published by the Mail on Sunday, Sir Philip armed a private army of Police spies. 

(Mail on Sunday: Shell chief ‘had a private army: 4 April 2004’)  

Subsequently the leader of the peacefully conducted campaign against Shell’s activities, the Nobel laureate, Ken Saro Wiwa, was hanged on trumped up charges along with several of his supporters.  Sir Philips ambition, ruthlessness and lack of ethics, subsequently allowed him to ascend the throne as Group Chairman of Royal Dutch Shell before plunging the Group into the reserves fraud which brought about the demise of Shell in its original form, which had lasted for 100 years. 

Shell management has no regard for employees at the coal face. It is quite happy to cheat Shell pension holders and treat them with contempt if they have the audacity to complain, as hundreds of Shell employees have courageously done in Malaysia. 

Contrast this with how Shell executive directors treat themselves. They are indemnified against all manner of mismanagement/negligence. For example, all of Sir Philip’s legal costs in respect of the reserves fraud have been paid by Shell shareholders and he has reportedly received a severance/pension package worth £18.5 million UDS. That was his reward for destroying Shell as a world famous brand of high reputation jointly owned by two parent companies.  

Basically dishonest directors and senior officials are routinely rewarded irrespective of misdeeds which breach the SGBP while those at the coal face are treated as gullible fools who can be intimidated into keeping quite about issues of conscience and management misdeeds. 

Under the circumstances, it is the height of hypocrisy for Shell management to pretend that it follows a policy of transparency and integrity in line with Shell’s ethical code.    


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