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Daily Telegraph: Lawyers close in on Shell chiefs

By Russell Hotten
Front page of Daily Telegraph Business Section

The accounting scandal that forced resignations and fines at Royal Dutch Shell in 2004 looks like returning to haunt the company, with lawyers pursuing legal action on behalf of US shareholders about to step up their campaign for compensation.

Following years of wrangling, key Shell executives involved in the 2004 “oil reserves” affair appear ready to give sworn statements to the lawyers about their role in what was the biggest crisis in the company’s history.

Frank Coopman, then finance director in Shell’s exploration and production unit, is understood to have given a deposition yesterday. Former chairman Sir Philip Watts, and possibly ex-finance director Judy Boynton, may give evidence over the next couple of weeks.

Lawyers at the US firm Bernstein Liebhard & Lifshitz see the depositions as a breakthrough in their claims for compensation that could run into hundreds of millions of pounds.

Shell has already paid fines and compensation of £360m after admitting that it inflated the amount of oil reserves recorded in its accounts.

However, investigations by financial regulators in Britain and America have already concluded that the individuals have no case to answer.

Mr Coopman, whose emails exposed the practice of inflating reserves, is thought to have been interviewed by the lawyers in The Hague, where Shell is based.

Sir Philip’s lawyer declined to comment, and representatives for the other two former executives could not be reached. Shell said it would not comment on ongoing legal action.

Meanwhile, a decision by Shell not to release key data on its reserves replacement when it posts full-year profits figures today, continues to upset the City. Shell will disclose the information – which measures how fast it replaces the oil that is pumped – in May.;jsessionid=DZUXZK1BXOIRTQFIQMFSFFOAVCBQ0IV0?xml=/money/2008/01/31/cnshell131.xml and its sister non-profit websites,,,,,, and are owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia feature.

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