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Financial Times: Shell settles final claim on misreporting of reserves

By Sylvia Pfeifer in London
Published: March 6 2008 19:34 | Last updated: March 6 2008 19:34

Royal Dutch Shell on Thursday tried to draw a line under one of the darkest chapters in its corporate history by settling the final class-action claim arising from an oil reserves misreporting scandal in 2004.

The Anglo-Dutch oil group shocked investors four years ago when it announced it had overstated its proven oil and gas reserves.

The scandal sent shares in Shell plummeting and eventually led to the departure of its three most senior executives, including Sir Philip Watts, the then chairman.

On Thursday, Shell said it had agreed in principle to settle a class-action lawsuit brought by US shareholders represented by the Pennsylvania State Employees’ Retirement System and the Pennsylvania Public School Employees’ Retirement System.

Under the terms of the deal, a group of US shareholders, which bought shares in the company in a period before the reserves restatement, would receive a total of $89.5m, Shell said.

The deal is subject to the approval of the US District Court for the District of New Jersey.

The offer follows a previously announced proposed settlement reached on behalf of non-US claimants who purchased shares in Shell on stock exchanges outside the US between April 8 1999 and March 18 2004.

This earlier offer of $352.6m, announced in April last year, is still pending ratification before the Amsterdam Court of Appeals in the Netherlands. About 80 per cent of Shell’s shareholders are based in the UK and Europe, and the rest in the US.

The total settlement bill for both cases will amount to $470m, within the provision of $500m made by Shell in 2006.

Shell has offered to pay an additional sum of about $33m in fees and expenses. Approval by the courts is expected to take several months

On top of the settlement fees, the scandal has already cost Shell more than $150m in fines imposed by US and UK regulators in 2005.

The scandal also acted as a catalyst for the wholesale shake-up of the group and prompted the historic merger of its two operating companies, Shell Transport & Trading and Royal Dutch Petroleum, to form Royal Dutch Shell, now led by chief executive Jeroen van der Veer.

Shell said: “With this settlement, together with the settlement pending in an Amsterdam court, we made a huge step towards closing the chapter of legal disputes and controversies around the recategorisation of our hydrocarbon reserves.”

Shell’s shares fell 2.2 per cent to £17.33 in London.

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