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Goblok, Paddy Briggs and Shell ethics

By John Donovan

The following is an extract from comments about Shell made by “Goblok”, an anonymous contributor to our website…

A business not a charity and hopefully a responsible one most of the time. Is everyone in Shell decent and ethical – for the most part yes I am sure like most other MultiNationals – it mirrors the society in which employees work and live. Are there still a few “bastards” in the organisation who are egotistical and selfish: probably yes! but then thats life and you will find the same in every company and every part of Civil Society

This is a related extract from the comments of a former Shell executive Paddy Briggs, a regular contributor to the website…

My point, as always, is not to criticise what Shell does, as long as it is legal and in the interests of shareholders. What I object to is the bullshit – when the rhetoric does not match the reality.

I agree in general terms with what Goblok says. As I have stated previously, I have no doubt that the vast majority of Shell employees are honest, hard working individuals, no different than would be found in any corporation employing a large number of people. I do however also agree with Paddy that Shell rhetoric often does not match reality. 

The biggest gap between rhetoric and reality is in relation to the Shell General Business Principles. If Shell senior management had abided by the core principles of honesty, integrity, openness, and respect for people, the reserves fraud would not have occurred.

Perhaps it is just our bad luck, but in my experience there is a culture of cover-up and deceit at the heart of Shell.  Time and again, important information is deliberately withheld from Shell shareholders, the people who are supposed to own the company.

It was interesting to read the article this morning mentioning David Pirret, Executive Vice-President of Shell International Petroleum.

Shell International Petroleum Co executive VP David Pirret says Shell to focus on India and China for future growth

I first met David 13 years ago when what was known as a “Funding Deed” proposal was put to us on 31 May 1995 by Dr Chris Fay, the then Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Shell UK Limited. David was present. I subsequently had a number of meetings with David and Shell lawyers to finalise details.

The agreement is probably unique in the history of litigation. Basically Shell paid our legal fees for us to sue them in the High Court in respect of two promotional ideas we had put to Shell in strictest confidence. Both had been secretly developed and subsequently launched without any payment or credit to our company.

In return for the “funding” worth £125,000 (approximately $250,000 US dollars), we undertook to drop a libel action against Shell (after Shell had falsely alleged that our claims were “bogus” and cease the “Shell Corporate Conscience Pressure Group”. The full terms can be seen in the agreement. Shell eventually paid us £200,000 plus costs to settle the so called “bogus” claims being pursued under the Deed.

One of the primary objectives of the Funding Deed was to keep information from reaching the public, the media and Shell shareholders. It was signed by David Varney, the then Managing Director of Shell UK Limited and countersigned by the Company Secretary and Legal Director of the company, Richard Wiseman. The agreement came about in part because we had caught Mr Varney being economical with the truth in a letter he sent to us when we first challenged Shell.

I subsequently had some *interesting correspondence with Shell Group Chairman Mark Moody-Stuart and Shell Transport Company Secretary Jyoti Munsiff when they conspired (with Shell barrister Richard Wiseman) and issued threats to try to prevent information from being disclosed to Shell shareholders. I still have the correspondence. It was only after pressure from us that they agreed we could disclose relevant information to Shell directors. There were other confidentiality agreements designed by Shell with the same objective: to keep important information known by us from reaching Shell shareholders.

This deeply embedded culture of cover-up and deceit which we experienced many times, involving a number of Shell executives, some still at the top of Shell, led to the reserves fraud.

The last time I contacted David Pirret was in relation to a consumer fraud involving Pennzoil, a premium oil brand owned by Shell. The fraud took place at the time when he was at the top executive of Shell Oil Products. David never replied. My impression is that he is a nice man who like other senior people at Shell turns a blind eye to misdeeds so that personal ambitions are not put at risk.

Shell and Pennzoil involved in lube chain consumer fraud

On our part, we will continue to campaign while Shell management makes pledges of ethical trading which are at odds with the reality of their actions.

*The “Interesting Correspondence”:

Letter to Shell Transport Chairman Mark Moody-Stuart 1 April 1998

Letter from John Donovan to Mark Moody-Stuart.pdf

Reply letter from Shell Transport Company Secretary, Jyoti Munsiff dated 6 April 1998 (then Company Secretary of Shell Transport And Trading Company p.l.c.)

Reply Letter from Jyoti Munsiff.pdf

Reply letter from Shell Transport Chairman Mark Moody-Stuart dated 9 April 1998

Reply letter to John Donovan from Mark Moody-Stuart.pdf

Letter to Mark Moody-Stuart dated 14 April 1998 (attention is drawn in particular to paragraph five)

John Donovan Letter to Mark Moody-Stuart

The letter to Mr Moody-Stuart refers to newspaper article: The Guardian: “Unloveable Shell, the goddess of oil”: in its wake, says Andrew Rowell, lies a trail of corruption, despoliation and death”

Guardian Article


The letter below dated 18 May 1994 provides hard evidence of how Shell prevented shareholders at the 1994 Shell Transport AGM finding out about Shell management incompetence which led to a multimillion pounds flawed promotion in 1994 called Shell Make Money (and how Shell had stolen an idea for a Nintendo themed promotion we had put forward in strictest confidence). For more details see “SHELL MAKE MONEY COVER-UP” section below.

The letter dated 18 May 1994 from Mackrell Turner Garret, solicitors representing Shell, setting forth the terms of a gagging agreement specifically designed to prevent information from reaching Shell shareholders…

Mackrell Turner Garrett letter.pdf

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