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By John Donovan

We have printed below our recent email correspondence with Mr Michiel Brandjes, Company Secretary and General Counsel Corporate of Royal Dutch Shell Plc.

The subject is explained in the correspondence.

John Donovan email to Mr Brandjes on 19 March 2008

From: John Donovan [mailto:[email protected]]
Sent: 19 March 2008 15:56
To: ‘michiel.brandjes@
Cc: ‘jeroen.vanderveer@; ‘paddybriggs’; ‘iainpercival@; ‘Cambell@’

Dear Mr Brandjes

We were aware as a result of the information supplied to us by Shell after our SAR application under the Data Protection Act that a Shell team was set up to brainstorm on how to counter our activities and separate us off from your former Group Auditor, Mr Bill Campbell.

Since then anonymous postings have appeared on the “Live Chat” facility on which we guessed had emanated from Shell and had the objective of discrediting us and our website.

There have also been anonymous postings designed to discredit the authors of published comments on our website, namely by the former Shell Executive Mr Paddy Briggs and the aforementioned Mr Bill Campbell.  Some of the comments directed at Mr Briggs and Mr Campbell have been reprehensible and defamatory and clearly designed to discredit what was stated by them.

In recent days an attempt has also been made to downgrade another distinguished retired Shell employee, Mr Iain Percival, the Group Chief Petroleum Engineer, even though his comments were either neutral in tone or in favour of Shell. Mr Percival has made no disparaging comments against Shell but apparently Shell does not want any former employees to put any comments on our site. That would seem to be an infringement of rights to freedom of expression.

I am writing to give you the opportunity to confirm or deny that any such activity has been undertaken for or on behalf of Shell.  I would draw your attention to the postings on Live Chat under the guest number 1094 and in particular those made today.

From the moment I asked Guest 1094 how are things at Shell Amsterdam HQ today? the postings under that designation ceased. At this stage I will not disclose the information which led me to ask that question. Does Shell disassociate the company from the postings made under the Guest 1094 designation?

I have copied this email to the individuals mentioned in it. I am sure you will agree that it would be truly appalling if retired Shell employees have been the subject of such a nasty vindictive campaign carried out at the behest of Shell. I have printed below a snapshot of current Live Chat Postings. The most recent is at the top.

Best Regards
John Donovan


From: michiel.brandjes@ [mailto:michiel.brandjes@]
Sent: 19 March 2008 17:47
To: [email protected]
Cc: paddybriggs@; iainpercival@; Cambell@
Subject: Re:

Dear Mr Donovan,

I am on travel. I need access to a full PC facility to look into this. I will revert soonest.

Best Regards,
Michiel Brandjes
Company Secretary and General Counsel Corporate
Royal Dutch Shell plc

Registered office: Shell Centre London SE1 7NA UK
Place of registration and number: England 4366849
Correspondence address: PO Box 162, 2501 AN  The Hague,
The Netherlands

Email: Michiel.Brandjes@
Sent from my BlackBerry Wireless Handheld



From: michiel.brandjes@ [mailto:michiel.brandjes@]
Sent: 20 March 2008 16:18
To: [email protected]
Cc: paddybriggs@; iainpercival@; Cambell@
Subject: RE:
Sensitivity: Private

Dear Mr Donovan,

Thank you for your email of 19th March.

Shell has not requested nor authorised anyone, whether employees or otherwise, to engage in postings on your website. In particular Shell has no knowledge of who the “Guest 1094” to whom you refer is and would not condone Shell involvement in anonymous correspondence and engagements with you.

As an aside, please note that the Shell head quarters are not in Amsterdam and Mr Campbell was not the Group Auditor.

Best Regards,
Michiel Brandjes
Company Secretary and General Counsel Corporate
Royal Dutch Shell plc
Registered office: Shell Centre London SE1 7NA UK
Place of registration and number: England 4366849
Correspondence address: PO Box 162, 2501 AN  The Hague,
The Netherlands
Email: Michiel.Brandjes@

Following the above reply from Mr Brandjes, we sent three further emails to him. Since no further response was received, some readers may prefer not to read on, as it turned out to be a one way conversation.


Sent: 25 March 2008 22:15
To: ‘michiel.brandjes@’
Cc: ‘jeroen.vanderveer@; [email protected]; ‘Cambell’; ‘paddybriggs’; ‘Iain Percival’


Dear Mr Brandjes

Thank you for your response.

“Guest 1094” made one more posting before changing disguise into other guest number designations and launching a full scale retaliatory assault on the website after publication of my email to you on this subject.

The identification of Amsterdam as a location self-evidently rattled the relevant party because Live Chat was immediately bombarded with anonymous postings. Anonymous multiple comments were also posted on a number of articles using a series of self-destructing disposable email addresses. All of the postings and comments were on a single theme: “do you track IP’s on Live Chat?”. In fact we are not able to do so.

We are able, via scrutiny of the mass of incoming IP addresses visiting the website, to potentially narrow down the location from which bombardment attacks emanate. This process, in combination with taking into account a variety of factors, provide the basis for an informed assessment on whether one source is responsible for multiple postings. Such an attack is designed to deceive and discredit by creating the impression that a number of people share the same critical views of our activities.

We did not obtain the Amsterdam location from Live Chat because, as indicated, we are unable to do so. However, people launching an attack often make mistakes, as did the relevant party on this occasion. We will not for obvious reasons disclose further information about such matters. Suffice it to say that visitors who use the Live Chat facility in a normal fashion on an anonymous basis can do so without risking exposure of their identity or location. People who bombard the website with postings designed to deceive and discredit will naturally attract our full attention and should not assume their location and/or identity will not be exposed.

There have been other attacks also involving mass postings on Live Chat. On one occasion, a person making multiple postings tried to frighten other users by falsely claiming they had “hacked” into the site and had access to information provided to us on a confidential basis by registered users. Sinister threats have also been made against us.

I believe under the circumstances it is proper to explain why I contacted you and asked you to confirm or deny that the recent attack had been undertaken for or on behalf of Shell.

We know from Shell internal documents released to us under a Data Protection Act (DPA) application that at our website has been the cause of intense interest, embarrassment and concern at Shell. Particular concern has been expressed in relation to information posted on what has been described as our “chat-board”.

I am sure you will not deny that Shell routinely copies information published on the website. In this regard, I would remind you that under the DPA application you supplied us with a large volume of material copied by Shell from our site, including copyrighted material originated by us. Shell has always followed this procedure. We have a large volume of copies of webpages taken from our website by Shell more than a decade ago. They formed part of Shell’s evidence for a Counterclaim brought to trial in 1999 which ended with me receiving a top secret payment as part of a “compromise settlement”, the full details of which, as you may be aware, were not disclosed even to the Judge.


With regards to our “chat-board”, here are some quotes from a Shell internal email circulated on 31 December 2006 at 15.53.


Gents you should be aware of the planned article below; and the entry on their website chat-board as follows:


I had a quick scan of the Donovan web-site today and saw the below. Not sure if we want to give any validity to the story by asking to see it (however  – I would note that this site does seem to pick up inside “gossip” on its chat board so I’m not sure what accusations the story might contain).


The following quote is from a Shell internal email dated 02 June 2005 11.32 with the subject heading: RE WSJ enquiry about the Donovans


…article on the Donovans has appeared on the WSJ online today, though not in the main newspaper. Bloomberg have also reported the story direct from the WSJ without contacting us for comment. We have not received any further enquiries. Both pieces are copied below. The tone of the articles tends to be more embarrassing than damaging.

The article was subsequently published in The Wall Street Journal newspaper in the U.S. and European editions.


Shell internal emails on 2 & 3 February 2007 discussed an article being readied for publication by the Sunday Times about the involvement of our website in Sakhalin-2. The email mentions that the article included an interview with “xxxxx” (the name had been redacted). One of the Shell emails records Shell’s underhand desire to “kill the story”. The finished article was read over the phone to me at 11am on Saturday 3 February by Steven Swinford, a then Sunday Times journalist. It included an interview with Oleg Mitvol containing an outspoken comment extremely embarrassing to Shell senior management. The article also contained the line “THE ULTIMATE REVENGE” and stated that our involvement had cost Shell £11 billion in lost revenues. The sum was calculated at the prevailing cost of oil and based on the loss of reserves (400,000 boe) attributed to the “Gazprom transaction”, as stated in Shell’s 2006 Annual Report which had just been published. The article was due to be printed that afternoon, but never appeared and shortly thereafter a major advertorial about the Shell Ferrari partnership was published in The Sunday Times.


A Shell internal email circulated on 09 March 2007 at 15.28 discussed extensive plans about how to handle the Donovans on the basis that

“we won’t tolerate the Donovans approach unchallenged any longer?”

It discusses scenarios and the possible retaliation on our part.

“Should we be more forthright about the site and our views on it? What might happen (leafleting in the past)?”

The email discussed:

“Blockers and enablers, strengths and weaknesses” and setting up a “round table working group. Will need to keep to a workable size!”

By coincidence or otherwise Shell briefly succeeded shortly thereafter in shutting down the website after successfully intimidating two of our server hosting companies. At first neither company would provide an explanation for emails sent to us out of the blue notifying us of the intention to close down our website based on alleged breaches of terms of use. We managed to corner them into revealing the truth. Shell EP General Counsel Keith Ruddock subsequently confirmed in an email to me that Shell was indeed behind the machinations. Shell never contacted us on the matter but preferred the underhand option of approaching the hosting companies behind our back, presumably hoping its role would never be exposed.

The above extracts are all from Shell internal documents. We have posted them onto the Internet so that the extracts can be read in context. The content is much more extensive than is apparent from the extracts and demonstrates the depth of the concern at Shell. The parts in black are the information blanked out by Shell.

The documents are but a small sampling of the large volume of information and Shell internal communications supplied to us under the DPA which confirm Shell’s intense interest in our activities.

We also know that our website activities have been the subject of internal email at the very highest level of Shell. We have a copy of an email Shell General Counsel Richard Wiseman sent to Shell CEO Jeroen van der Veer and EP Executive Director Malcolm Brinded on 24 June 2004 at 3.51 PM. The content revealed that Shell had a standard response to send out to third parties in relation to our activities. Wiseman also notified van der Veer and Brinded that he was contacting Sir Mark Moody-Stuart in relation to comments made by “Donovan”.

By coincidence or otherwise, Shell is on our website when such blocking attacks occur on Live Chat. However, your presence is not unusual as Shell seems to have a constant presence on our website from various countries 24 hours per day. Companies are identifiable in the IP addresses left by visitors to the site. We do not know out of the mass of visitors which ones make postings on Live Chat. It is a small fraction.

Bearing all of the above in mind, including the formation of a working group clearly designed to try to counter our activities, it seemed logical to invite Shell to confirm or deny a connection with “any such activity”. Your answer is narrower in scope. You say that Shell “has not authorised anyone, whether employees or otherwise, to engage in postings on your website”.

Under the circumstances can you kindly find out whether the working group is still active? I assume that it is, in view of the fact that the impact on Shell from the site has grown by leaps and bounds in the last year. The One World Trust, an independent research organization affiliated with the UN and the UK legislature has reported that our website has had a profound impact on the company.

Does the counter measure operation have any connection with Amsterdam? It is difficult to fathom out what action the working group could be undertaking other than perhaps commissioning or carrying out subversive activities, as there is no open evidence of action being taken against us. Specifically does the working group or any successor operation have any connection with the recent or past assaults on the site? Could you very kindly make enquiries to reassure us on this point bearing in mind the aforementioned evidence of other underhand actions taken or contemplated on the part of Shell?


I note your comment about Mr Bill Campbell which on the surface appears to be an attempt to publicly discredit him bearing in mind that you know from past experience that it is our normal practice to publish all email correspondence with Shell. Knowing that you are a fair minded man of high integrity, I can only surmise that you had not realised the implication of the comment.

The tactic of questioning a claimed job description has been used on Live Chat to allege that Mr Paddy Briggs was never a Shell Executive and that Mr Iain Percival was not a retired Shell Group Chief Petroleum Engineer, as we described him. The purpose of the relevant posted comments was clearly to discredit both of these individuals who, like Mr Campbell, are people of the highest integrity. Mr Briggs has both praised and criticised Shell in his published comments. In other words, his comments about Shell are not one sided but are honest informed opinions based on his vast experience at Shell gained over a period of 37 years.

Mr Percival has not said a single word critical of Shell. His comments have been entirely positive in relation to Shell. Yet he was still made the subject of the Live Chat postings implying misrepresentation of Shell job functions/titles. We can only conclude that his perceived crime was in contributing to our website even though as I have said, his expressed views about Shell have been entirely positive.

The fact that you challenged the description of Mr Campbell as Group Auditor but not the correctness of job descriptions I cited in relation to Mr Briggs as a former Shell Executive and Mr Percival as a retired Shell Group Chief Petroleum Engineer, implies that these descriptions were correct and are accepted as such by Shell.

Mr Percival sent me an email yesterday asking me to publish a statement on this subject.

Statement by Iain Percival, retired Royal Dutch Shell Global Chief Petroleum Engineer

As you can see, his title was even more impressive than the one I quoted.

I am aware that you have been in correspondence with Mr Campbell on behalf of Royal Dutch Chairman Mr Jorma Ollila (your letter dated 28 February 2007). It is also evident that Shell has gone to extraordinary lengths trying to separate us from him including setting up the aforementioned “round table working group” and sending emails to Mr Campbell’s solicitors (more correspondence released to us under the DPA application).

I am sure you would not wish to leave anyone with the impression that Mr Campbell misrepresented his former job title at Shell. I have printed below an article from a reputable independent source -UpstreamOnline – which sets out Mr Campbell’s entire working career at Shell. It says that between 1998 and 2001 Mr Campbell was “HSE group auditor”. Do you really want to leave the impression that Mr Campbell has misrepresented his role at Shell if, as seems to be the case, the only thing missing was the “HSE” prefix? The HSE prefix actually enhances the credibility of his numerous warnings about Shell executives putting production before safety following exposure by a safety audit team led by him of a “Touch F*** All” culture on Brent Bravo. This was prior to the preventable accident which cost the lives of two Shell employees. Of course, if it is your case that Mr Campbell was not HSE Group Auditor, then that would be another matter.

Best Regards
John Donovan

The UpstreamOnline Article

Headline: From the start of his working life to retirement from Shell, Bill Campbell was a safe pair of hands

By Upstream staff

BILL Campbell developed a real passion for safety issues from an early age by learning the lessons from UK coal-mining disasters as to how best to protect workers against the ever-present threat of an industrial accident in a high-risk business, writes Christopher Hopson.

Today, as a seasoned technical professional, he can rightly boast at having spent over 40 years as a much sought-after safety expert with wide experience in both the UK mining and international oil and gas industries. “From a very early age I became interested in the behaviours of people who get themselves hurt,” he recalls.

Campbell started his working life in his mid-teens during the 1960s as an electrical engineering apprentice with the UK’s National Coal Board (NCB).

“I guess my early real interest in safety developed during training and working underground. You very quickly realised that to survive in the coal mining industry you needed an almost intuitive sense of how to look after yourself,” Campbell says.

“I witnessed some horrific coal mining accidents… and realised the suddenness of the loss of people. I also saw a lot of people with their heads in their hands who were sorry after the event, even though the circumstances had often prevailed for some considerable time,” he adds.

Campbell qualified with a BSc in Electrical Power and Electronic Engineering at Strathclyde University in 1975 and then returned to the NCB. He made the switch from coal to the oil industry in 1979, moving to Aberdeen to join Shell Expro as a senior commissioning engineer. He worked for Shell in many senior capacities for 24 years until he retired in 2002.

“I got a bit of a shock when I joined Shell because the oil business at that time wasn’t the efficient, modern industry I had imagined,” he says.

“In fact, compared to mining it seemed to me to be a wasteful industry. Also, the technology at that time was what I would consider to be medieval.”

On joining Shell, Campbell was initially involved from 1979 to 1984 in commissioning North Sea equipment that was under construction at Lowestoft on the English east coast.

Later he moved on from this commissioning role to become a senior electrical engineer for offshore commissioning on the Dunlin and Cormorant Alpha offshore installations, and a senior facilities design engineer for modifications to the Dunlin, North Cormorant and Cormorant A installations.

At one stage in the early 1980s he was a facilities design engineer responsible for supervising a troop of engineers who were carrying out minor design changes on installations.

Campbell was one of the first technically qualified offshore installation managers (OIM) when he was put in charge of Shell’s Brent Alpha platform in the UK northern North Sea in 1984.

In 1986 he moved to London to become operations adviser for the Eider platform during the detailed design phase, training operations staff and commissioning modules in Middlesborough. Offshore he worked on Eider construction and then as the operations OIM from first oil.

During 1990 to 1993 he was made asset manager of the Cormorant Alpha platform with an annual operating expenditure budget of around £80 million. During that time he managed the installation of emergency shutdown valves and other safety modifications on Cormorant Alpha, including a new temporary refuge.

Campbell subsequently became Shell Expro’s head of production operations and maintenance strategy from 1993 to 1996, responsible as head of a department that set the standards of competence for essential training and emergency response.

He led a team that reviewed Shell Expro’s internal maintenance and inspection strategy, which for the first time carried out an analysis of Expro’s safety critical production equipment. “It was my department which actually developed the independent internal verification process,” he recalls fondly.

His straightforward, no-nonsense style won him many admirers within Shell, where he is widely remembered for his thoroughly professional approach, rooted in a deep belief in Shell’s business principles and the need to put safety first.

In 1996 he then moved to Shell International Exploration&Production (SIEP) in The Hague where he worked in a variety of posts: serving as a senior maintenance engineer (1996 to 2000); global consultant (1999 to 2001); HSE group auditor (1998 to 2001), and finally internal audit manager (from 2000 to 2002).

He took early retirement from Shell in June 2002.

During that period Campbell led between 27 and 30 safety audits for SIEP worldwide. “Probably around 50% of those were satisfactory and some 50% were not,” he calculates.

It was during that period, in 1999, that he was called back to Aberdeen to carry out the PSMR audit for Shell Expro. It was there that the real story begins.

15 June 2006 23:02 GMT  | last updated: 15 June 2006 23:02 GMT


From: John Donovan [mailto:[email protected]]
Sent: 26 March 2008 10:44
To: ‘michiel.brandjes@
Cc: ‘jeroen.vanderveer@; ‘malcolm.brinded@; ‘Iain Percival’; ‘paddybriggs’; ‘Cambell


Dear Mr Brandjes

One factor I neglected to mention which went into our decision to contact you is that “Guest 1094” was on duty patrolling our website on a 24/7 basis for some time making postings at all hours, often placing rebuttal postings on Live Chat minutes after another visitor had left an anti-Shell comment. We also noticed that although all of the postings were consistently pro-Shell and anti-Donovan (and anti-any Shell retiree contributor), some seemed to have been authored by a different person, although still under the same Guest number. Hence our concern that an organised activity funded by someone with deep pockets was at work trying to nullify and counter any perceived anti-Shell output of the website. We have no objection if it is Shell except that such activity would hardly be in accordance with Shell’s stated business ethics including the core principle of openness. As we have always stated, Shell is welcome to contribute to the site including supplying articles for unedited publication. However it would be proper for Shell to do so openly.

If the activity was indeed undertaken at the behest of Shell, then based on what you have already stated, it was done so without your knowledge. The fact that you have already issued a denial would put pressure on any operation conducted on a need to know basis. If the truth every came to light for example as a result of a leak, or a DPA application, Shell would be in an even more embarrassing situation having denied its existence.

Best Regards
John Donovan



From: John Donovan [mailto:[email protected]]
Sent: 28 March 2008 10:10
To: ‘michiel.brandjes@’
Cc: ‘jeroen.vanderveer; ‘richard.wiseman@’; ‘jorma.ollila@’

Subject: The attack on the website

Dear Mr Brandjes

It seems reasonable to assume that Shell has decided not to respond further. This strategy would be in line with the following extracts from Shell’s musings about strategies on how best to “handle the Donovans”: –

“…our standard response is not to rise to the Donovan bait (as they will always try and use this to our disadvantage)…”

A suggested line of defence…

“…we feel that no useful purpose would be achieved by engaging in a detailed rebuttal.”

(Shell internal email 31 December 2006 15:53)

And perhaps the most applicable…

“Thanks for this. I think closing down communications is the best route to take. The more we engage with the Donovans the more ammunition they will have.”

(Shell internal email 28 February 2007 10:36 relating to Brent Bravo scandal)

I hope you will understand that our reaction to the underhand attack on our website is also coloured by our unfortunate past experience with Shell, including the undercover activity directed against us, as admitted by Shell General Counsel Mr Richard Wiseman when he was Legal Director of Shell UK Limited. That episode resulted in Mr Wiseman and Mr Colin Joseph, the then lead partner of your solicitors Kendall Freeman, being interviewed by journalist Simon Rines for The Guardian newspaper. It was an unusual interview in which all sides – Shell, its lawyers and the journalist, tape recorded the entire proceedings.

Following an investigation by another newspaper regarding other sinister events, Shell subsequently admitted it had instigated cloak and dagger operations against its perceived enemies:

Titled Shell Transport directors were the spymasters and major shareholders of the relevant London based private intelligence firm founded by senior officers of MI6, which carried out the covert operations. In 2004 we had some related intriguing and extraordinary correspondence with the MD of the spy firm, the UK Intelligence and Security Committee, and The Church of England. As a consequence, we are no longer shocked at any developments.

If my assumption that you will not be responding further on this matter is incorrect, please let me know by close of business today. There is no problem if you need more time. In the absence of any response today, I will carry on and publish the entire correspondence.

Best Regards
John Donovan


Here are some interesting related discussions which took place on our “Live Chat” facility on Sunday 30 March 2008.

Guest 9362:

The importance of defending corporate reputation on the Internet cannot be overstated. This explains why Shell dirty tricks unit was kept busy trying to smother your website while also rewriting Wikipedia articles about Shell. Wiki-scanner revealed Shell articles being anonymously edited from Shell locations. Shell was caught by the IP traces left by the perpetrators. Information critical of Shell was systematically removed.

Guest 7473:

“Shell was caught by the IP traces”. Caught by whom?? Proof of this please Guest 9362.

Guest 9362:

Proof! Check out then run search on “Shell Lists anonymous wikipedia edits from interesting organizations”. Also google “wikiscanner Shell”. Check out and you will find similar tactics used against another anti-shell site. Same names involved including Wiseman, Moody-Stuart, van der Veer. Shell underhand internet trickery in abundance.

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

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