Royal Dutch Shell Plc  .com Rotating Header Image Shell Discovers The Perils Of Plagiarism

By John Alfred Donovan

David Greer, Shell Deputy Chief Executive of the $22 billion Sakhalin-2 project in Russia was recently exposed as a plagiarist after circulating a motivational memo containing inspirational passages borrowed from a speech made by U.S. General George S Patton over 60 years ago. The fallout included extensive media coverage which has ruined his reputation and damaged Shell’s standing with the Russian government.

The Literary Dictionary of the Oxford University Press has the following definition for plagiarism:

“…the theft of ideas (such as the plots of narrative or dramatic works) or of written passages or works, where these are passed off as one’s own work without acknowledgement of their true origin; or a piece of writing thus stolen. Plagiarism is not always easily separable from imitation, adaptation, or pastiche, but is usually distinguished by its dishonest intention. A person practising this form of literary theft is a plagiarist. The older term plagiary was applied both to plagiarisms and to plagiarists”.

On 4 June 2007, David Greer, the Deputy Chief Executive of Sakhalin Energy Investment Company thought he was starting just another routine week in his high flying life. He could not has guessed that within days he would end up as the butt of major news stories in The Financial Times and The Moscow Times exposing him as a blatant plagiarist.

In April 2007 Greer sent a motivational email to senior employees working on the $22 billion plus Sakhalin-2 project in Russia, the biggest energy project of its kind in the world. Both news organisations revealed that the email meant solely for internal consumption had been leaked to the website…

…which the FT stated “has long been a thorn in Shell’s side. The site is owned by my father Alfred Donovan and me. We often receive leaked documents from Shell insiders.

Information about our activities and the reason for our long-standing hostility towards Shell can be found on Wikipedia:

Our website serves as the unofficial heart and conscience of Shell, buzzing with conversation and debate on our Live Chat facility involving current and former Shell employees and other parties with an interest in Shell, including Shell shareholders. It allows retired Shell employees to feel that they are retaining a connection with Shell. The site benefits from their immense experience and wisdom. One example is Mr Paddy Briggs, a former Shell executive of 37 years standing. In May 2007 the site received over 3 million page views and 3.9 million hits. Shell’s own internet discussion forum was “suspended” in November 2005 and has never been resurrected. Our website is currently the subject of multiple High Court injunctions brought collectively by eight different Royal Dutch Shell companies in respect of another Shell whistleblower, Dr John Huong.

Returning to the Greer memo controversy, we passed on the leaked email to both newspapers – the FT and the Moscow Times, together with other important information from the Sakhalin source containing allegations of corrupt practices involving Greer and the awarding of contracts to Russian companies. That information was entirely eclipsed by the astonishing developments over the motivational email. It is published below together with the David Greer email.

Oleg Mitvol, the deputy chief of Rosprirodnadzor, the Russian environmental agency, had previously credited me as being the source of leaked documents on which he had based a $5 billion claim against Shell for environmental damage incurred during the Sakhalin-2 pipeline construction. Mitvol sent the evidence to Sakhalin Energy CEO Ian Craig, asking him either to confirm or deny information contained in confidential e-mails from then Shell natural gas field manager Hans Bouman to Sakhalin Energy technical director, Engel Van Spronsen. Both gentleman are now retired and were not themselves involved in any wrongdoing.

The documentary evidence of a cover-up by Shell was subsequently used by the Russian government to force Shell into surrendering its ownership of the Sakhalin-2 project to Gazprom. The leaked internal emails between senior Shell managers cost Shell at least $11 billion dollars in lost reserves when the transfer to Gazprom took place. President Putin referred to the evidence earlier this week.

The David Greer motivational email was designed to restore employee morale after the sudden change in ownership in dramatic circumstances involving unsuccessful interventions by the British and Japanese governments. The content of the email stood out because of the exceptionally stirring phrases which seemed more suited to a military setting.

The Financial Times published a front page story, ironically on D-Day 6 June, under the headline: “Pipeliners All! memo urges Shell workers to bounce off the bottom”. The article quoted at length from the memo, including the phrase “Lead me. Follow me or Get out of my way”. It said that Mr Greer had witnessed comments and body language that suggest a group that “doesn’t want to fight and lacks confidence in its own ability”. The FT reported that Shell had confirmed the email was genuine. I had supplied the FT with emailed confirmation that we had obtained from Keith Ruddock, General Counsel of Shell Exploration & Production, Shell International B.V.

One passage in the motivational memo was so striking that Time Magazine published it in their “Quotes of the Day” feature: “… So Lead me, Follow me or Get out of my way; Success is how we bounce when we are on the bottom”.

The FT published the entire email in a separate article and also conducted an online poll on asking the question: “Is this the worst ever motivational memo?”

Unfortunately for Mr Greer, a keen eyed reader spotted that the Greer email contained many passages taken from a speech made by the legendary U.S. General George S Patton on the eve of D-Day 1944.

On 7 June, the Financial Times published a quarter page follow-up article headlined: “Sakhalin motivational memo borrows heavily from Patton”. Two photographs were displayed side-by-side of General Patton and David Greer. Under each photograph quotes were compared from the Patton speech and the Greer memo. The first quote from Patton stated: “When you, here, everyone of you, were kids, you all admired the champion marble player, the fastest runner, the toughest boxer, the big league ball players, and the All-American football players.” The comparison quote from Greer stated: “When you were kids, you all admired the champion marble player, the fastest runner, the big league ball players, the toughest boxers.” The FT article recalled the saying “Talent borrows, genius steals”. It gave another example of the blatant plagiarism saying: “Mr Greer’s declaration that ‘I despise cowards and play to win all the time’ is almost straight from the Patton script”.

The week concluded with The Moscow Times publishing on Saturday a front page article under the heading: Sakhalin Pep Talk From ‘Old Blood and Guts’. Their article ridiculed Greer by saying : In substituting “pipeliners and engineers” for Patton’s “American he-men” heroes Greer’s memo reads more like a cross with a pep talk by David Brent, the haplessly self-deluding boss from the BBC’s television comedy show “The Office.’”

The Moscow Times attempted without success to make contact with David Greer and with recipients of the email, who either claimed they had not seen it or were unwilling to comment. They did manage to interview Oleg Mitvol who was quoted as saying “Greer’s bombastic memo had made him laugh” and that “It was very much in Sakhalin Energy’s style and highlighted the cause of the project’s troubles”. The quote attributed to Mitvol continued: “Everyone thought that the problems with the pipeline on Sakhalin were all because of me, but now from this text you can see that the problems have to do with Sakhalin Energy and some of their managers.”

The FT has published a number of follow-up articles, the most recent on 11 June. The story was also picked up by other news organisations such as MSNBC.

The top management of Royal Dutch Shell is now placed in an invidious position. Greer’s act of plagiarism is directly in breach of Shell’s own ethical code, the Statement of General Business Principles pledging honesty, integrity and transparency in all Shell dealings. Greer’s conduct has embarrassed Shell and put a further strain on the already sensitive relationship with its new partner, Gazprom and Gazprom’s ultimate boss, Vladimir Putin, who had openly exploited Shell management’s earlier mendacity when Shell still had control over the Sakhalin-2 project. Eric Arkesteijn of Sakhalin Energy has already speculated that the email was in fact leaked to us by Gazprom. We have no comment on that allegation.

Mitvol has confirmed in an interview the involvement of Russian “special services” to establish the authenticity of leaked documents we supplied to him.

An SEIC spokesperson, Ivan Chernakhovsky, somewhat ominously commented to The Moscow Times that: “As yet, the company did not know who had leaked the e-mail” .

Shell’s own formidable in-house security arm headed by Ian Forbes McCredie OBE, a former senior MI6 officer, will be involved in the hunt to try to identify our sources. Russian contractors named in the leaked information are also likely to be interested in developments.

It was naive of Mr Greer to think that in the internet age such an extraordinary internal email awash with over-the-top gung ho content and circulated to numerous employees, would not quickly reach a larger unintended audience.

The future for Greer and Shell’s participation in Russian energy projects in any event looks bleak and likely to be mired in further intrigue bearing in mind the number of employees deeply concerned by what is going on inside the project. Morale will not have been lifted by the Greer motivational memo ironically designed to promote his leadership qualities. Instead his credibility has been damaged beyond repair.

Royal Dutch Shell CEO Jeroen van der Veer had a face-to-face discussion with Putin a few days ago, as reported in The Washington Post on 10 June 2007. Van der Veer asked what the rules of the game are in Russia. Putin gave a one word answer which spoke volumes: “Honesty”

Trickery displayed by Shell in negotiations with Gazprom in 2005 regarding a swop deal for Gazprom to become a partner in the Sakhalin-2, in return for Shell receiving a stake in Gazprom’s Shtokman project, a huge gasfield in the Barents Sea, torpedoed the discussions. Days after an agreement had been reached in principle, Shell sprung the news that Sakhalin-2 project costs had doubled to $20 billion. Putin subsequently went ballistic in a meeting with Van der Veer during Putin’s state visit to The Netherlands in November 2005.

Putin had apparently decided to remove Shell as the majority stakeholder in Sakhalin-2 after we wrote to him on 2 November 2005 alerting him to information already reaching us from a Sakhalin-2 insider source. We subsequently passed insider information to Mitvol, Putin’s front man in the campaign to reduce the holdings of Shell and BP in Russian projects. We had decided on moral grounds bearing in mind Shell’s avowed disinterest in our activities, that information about potential catastrophic environmental consequences arising from construction shortcuts and flawed design should be brought to the attention of the Russian government.

The initial letter to President Putin:

The plagiarism scandal unfortunately highlighted a corporate culture of deceit and trickery at the highest levels of Shell management at a very unwelcome moment. Van der Veer had desperately been making fresh overtures to the Russians about entry into the Shtokman project. Yesterday, following the derisive comments from Oleg Mitvol about the Greer memo and the state of disarray which it revealed, Gazprom rejected Van der Veer’s pleadings. It seems we can infer that the Russian government still does not believe that Shell is honest.


Shell and Sakhalin II

It is now been publicly declared that Sakhalin Energy Investment Company Limited (SEIC) has recently seen Gazprom become the majority shareholder. As previously reported the SEIC Onshore Pipelines Departments senior management organisation is made up exclusively of Shell Employees. It has also been alleged that Shell are manipulating and fabricating information in order to create the impression that the construction of their onshore pipeline will be ready for the introduction of hydrocarbons RFH in December 2007.

SEIC management has now presented this date to their shareholders as the date upon which the RFH will be achieved. The Prime Contractor, Starstroi have been silent on this issue and it would be interesting to obtain their input to this debate.

So why is the date in December 2007 so important? If completion of the pipeline construction is achieved in December 2007, it will illustrate a delay of 2 years. This again raises the question of why then would it matter if construction is complete in December 2007 or in 2008.

SEIC employs a number of in-house experts representing various pipeline engineering and construction disciplines. It is the job of these experts to advise on issues, which may contribute to or jeopardise completion of the pipeline by the completion date. A number of these disciplines have now produced information that illustrates completion in 2008. The plan for a December 2007 completion date allegedly excludes known operational, construction operations and procedural constraints, which determine feasibility. There are two members of SEIC senior management who have chosen to ignore SEIC in-house expert opinions in order to exclusively pursue a Shell specific directive. Mr David Greer and Mr Jaap Guyt have decided to exclude specialist knowledge or expert recommendation because it disqualifies a December 2007 completion date. SEIC will only incorporate the advice of their various experts if it supports a December 2007 completion. By using their position and leverage within the organisation Mr Greer and Mr Guyt can not only force programme changes, but can also coerce staff into signing up under duress to a plan illustrating completion in December 2007. So not only is the completion date questionable, but also due to coercion of disciplines, it appears to be agreed by all. If the date is not achieved it can therefore be put down to the incorrect advice administered by SEIC experts. It would also be reasonable for Mr Greer and Mr Guyt to place reliance on this advice, when reporting to the Board. In fact, if it becomes blatantly obvious in the latter part of 2007 that the date is not achievable, Mr Greer and Mr Guyt will join the rest of the board in exclamations of disbelief! Clever? Well not really!

So by now you may be wondering about the question referred to earlier. Why is the date in December 2007 so important?

Well to understand the importance of this question you need to imagine the consequences of the following two scenarios:

Scenario (i)

The pipeline is complete in December 2007 and the oil and gas can be pumped from the offshore pipeline and into the onshore pipeline, before the offshore platforms shut down for the winter freeze. Although Mr Greer will have made his exit before this date, he will be able to look back in years to come with his grandchildren on his knee with a sense of satisfaction. The project will be a success and all Shell employees will get handsome bonuses and shareholders will be able to calculate when revenue will be acquired.

Scenario (ii)

The pipeline is not complete in December 2007. This will mean that the methods of getting the product will be limited. The offshore platform will shut down in December 2007 until May or June in 2008. This will delay SEIC in obtaining revenue for several months resulting in huge financial losses ($250million), together with increased costs for construction and if feasible the alternative methods for acquiring the product. Although Mr Greer will have made his exit before this date, he will have ensured that all of the project team have committed in writing to a date, which is not feasible.

This is why the date in December 2007 is so important! SEIC have obtained a financial commitment from lending institutions and made a commitment to shareholders on the back of their assurance relating to revenue yields commencing from a specific date.

So we will have to wait to see which scenario will manifest itself in December 2007?

Now the above situation may appear somewhat humorous if it were not for the enormous pressure that Mr David Greer is putting on various members of the SEIC organisation. Any information relating to dates beyond December 2007 date is not accepted! People are not only being pressured into agreeing to the date, but also into risking their names and professional reputations.

It would not be difficult to establish the feasibility of the completion date, which until now has been communicated to SEIC shareholders through a number of presentations. What SEIC cannot manipulate is the technology which determines the sequencing and durations for operations. By careful examination of the programme it can be seen that at best it can be considered non-achievable.

Experience gained by SEIC departmental disciplines on previous projects has consistently provided evidence to increase the accuracy of risk assessments. These individuals were recruited because SEIC did not already possess the level of experience or expertise to effectively manage these areas. The risk analysis carried out within SEIC by these individuals has now identified a number of risks that are likely to occur.

The programme has undergone many changes in recent weeks and by reference to the current programme it is clear certain operations have not commenced, whilst others are behind schedule.

If SEIC were to request the resignation of Mr Greer and Mr Guyt they could then recruit a professionally qualified construction organisation. SEIC has become an organisation governed by Shell’s bureaucracy and corporate objectives. The current SEIC management can no longer effectively manage Sakhalin II.

This is an extract from an email from Mr David Greer sent out to selected Onshore Pipeline Personnel on the 18th April 2007

To: Guyt, Jaap SEIC-P-PDP; Kunz, Dennis C SEIC-AU; Boulstridge, Robert SEIC-P-PDP; Tattersdill, Alan SEIC-P-PDP; Primak, Boris SEIC-P-PDP; Harris, Wayne R SEIC-P-PDP; Porter, Simon DL SEIC-P-PDP; Dorsch, Ulrich W SEIC-P-PDP; Labrujere, Job J SEIC-P-PDP; Brooks, Graham Peter SEIC-P-PDP; Joos, Aaron SEIC-P-PDP; Burt, Stephen A SEIC-P-PDP; Baxter, Peter P SEIC-PDP; Shand, John SEIC-PDP; Martinez, Ramon SEIC-P-PDP; ‘LLinassi (E-mail)’

Cc: Zhironkina, Alexandra S SEIC-P-PDS; Briston, Gary SEIC-P-PDE; Wyper, Campbell SEIC-FCP; Hilhorst, Hein MJ SEIC-P-PDE; Farquhar, Bill SEIC-P-PDS; Mcgillivray, William D SEIC-P-ICT; ‘Mercer (CTSD), Hilary’; Meehan, David A SEIC-P-PSF; Clucas, Chris A SEIC-HRP; Vasyuk, Anna SEIC-FF; Belozerskikh, Sergey SEIC-P-PD; Parker, Robert S SEIC-AZ; Crowder, John SEIC-ALG; Shand, Alan SEIC-P-OPF; Nally, Stephanie O SEIC-P-PDE; McCourt, Eoin P SEIC-P-ICT; Bungey, Stephen SEIC-P-PDS; Jansen, Sjors SEIC-P-OPF; Kloeck, Gert MJC SEIC-P-PDS; Garcia-Cruz, Jorge A SEIC-P-PDB; ‘Richard Lewis’; GX SEIC Phase 2 PLT; Langford, Gawain SEIC-P-PDP; Lindsay, William J SEIC-P-PDP

“Pipeliners All !

Many thanks to all of you for your contributions to this week’s Bi-Annual Challenge………..and what a Challenge it is going to be for all of us! From the outset, I want to assure you that despite the mutterings on the day and the challenges ahead, I have total faith in you and our collective ability to complete the task ahead of us.

However, some of the comments and body language witnessed at the Bi-annual Challenge meeting do suggest that PDP is running the risk of becoming a team that doesn’t want to fight and lacks confidence in its own ability. Surely, this is not the case? Pipeliners and Engineers, love to fight and win, traditionally. All real engineers love the sting and clash of challenge. All of you are here today on this project for one of several reasons, I suspect. Firstly, to earn a decent living for yourself and your loved ones. Secondly, you are here for your own professional self respect, because you would not want to be anywhere else. Thirdly, you are here because you are real frontier professionals and all professionals like to succeed. So why would any of you not want to rise up and overcome the remaining challenges?

When everyone of you, were kids, I am sure that you all admired the champion marble player, the fastest runner, the toughest boxer, the big league football players. Personally, I like most others love winning. I despise cowards and play to win all of the time. This is what I expect of each and everyone of you going forward this year. Nothing less. Strive to be proud and confident in yourselves, be proud of your tremendous pipeline achievements to date and lift up your level of personal and team energy to show everyone that you are a winning team capable to achieving this year’s goals. If you can crack this angle, I am very confident you can crack the job, with ease.

So Lead me, Follow me or Get out of my way; Success is how we bounce when we are on the bottom.

No one within SEIC appreciates the challenges that PDP have more than himself and I pledge my total support to assist you all in going forward . In fact today, I commissioned the establishment of a Pipeline Recovery Plan Support Team under the leadership of Stephanie Nally to assist all of you going forward. Details of the team are summarised in the enclosed email.”

The contents of the above email although not explicit, do seem to imply that the following recipients are not as optimistic as Mr Greer, whose rhetoric is in contrast to the general consensus. The comments referred to were aggressively confronted by Mr Greer during the Bi-Annual Challenge. His subsequent email appears to shift toward a less autocratic position, to one of motivation. However, in terms of its motivational content it is considered more Mary Poppins, than Tony Robbins. Or perhaps the desperate rambling of someone who knows their deception will be exposed by the natural occurrence of future events.

So who were the recipients of Mr Greer’s email?  

Jaap Guyt SEIC – Pipelines Project Manager
Dennis Kunz SEIC – Pipelines Onshore Readiness Manager
Robert Boulstridge SEIC – Onshore Pipelines Commercial Manager
Alan Tattersdill SEIC – Operations, Costs and Planning
Boris Primak SEIC – Pipeline Special Projects Manager
Wayne Harris SEIC – HSE and Risk Assurance Manager
Simon Porter SEIC – Finance Manager, Onshore Pipelines
Ulrich Dorsch SEIC – Deputy Section Manager, Section 1
Job Labrujere SEIC – Pipeline Section Manger, Section 2 & 3
Graham Brooks SEIC – Construction Support Manager
Aaron Joos SEIC – Senior Project Engineer, Access Roads
Stephen Burt SEIC – Company Site Representative, Section 4
Peter Baxter SEIC – Project Interface Engineer
John Shand SEIC – Telecommunications Project Engineer
Ramon Martinez SEIC – Commercial Marketing and Distribution
Stephanie Nally SEIC – Team Leader, Pipelines Recovery Support Team. Tasked with recovery of delay and achieving December 2007. Has never worked on a Pipeline Project before and is not familiar with pipeline construction technology. The Well Paid Sacrificial Lamb?
Gawain Langford SEIC – Pipeline CSU Manager
William Lindsay SEIC – Engineering and Procurement Manager

Mr Greer has actively directed deals from behind the scenes and must accept responsibility for the consequences. Mr Boris Primak covertly arranges deals with Russian Companies in return for their assistance with obtaining permits and removing regulatory obstacles. Mr Greer has ensured that SU4 have work on the project and the deal is done, even before the Subcontract is produced. When the political situations dictates, no other supplier will be requested to provide quotes and the market therefore remains, untested! The deal is then implemented by agreements between Starstroi and the Supplier. It is therefore difficult to immediately associate Greer, et al.

By reference to the recipients of Greer’s email, it is with some concern that all but Mr Linassi are SEIC Personnel, even though Starstroi are at least on paper responsible for construction.

If there was an investigation into the ownership and shareholders and history of a number of Starstroi suppliers, not least of all SU4 this might reveal some interesting names and obvious conflict of interests.

Disclaimer: The author (John Alfred Donovan) and the website are not endorsed by Royal Dutch Shell Plc or affiliated with them in any way.’ For more information about the author and the website go to:

© 2007  

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

One Comment

  1. hgnis says:

    Nice one. For far too long the incompetent and arrogant good ole boys have been holding the reigns. I suspect the root cause is as far from being addressed as Shell is from holding on to the project.

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