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Deeply ingrained culture of dishonesty and cover-up at Royal Dutch Shell

John Donovan

For several years, Shell Oil Products, a division of Royal Dutch Shell Plc, was complicit in a sleazy fraud perpetrated on customers at an oil lube chain in Illinois.

I published an article on the subject in August 2007.

USA consumer fraud involving Pennzoil and Shell Oil Products

As a result of Shell being legally compelled to supply me with Shell internal communications, we now know about the frantic activity that was going on inside Shell at the time in relation to my article about the scam. (Some information has been redacted from the emails by Shell on claimed legal grounds)

Internal communications never meant for public consumption are of course a much better guide to the real dna of a multinational corporation than its global advertising or PR propaganda, including sham business principles designed to deceive investors.

The Shell internal emails in this case show that advice was sought and given on ‘weathering’ the attention of Mr Donovan.

Extract: “On ‘weathering’ the situation: exactly so – best thing is for us to keep our heads down, not be drawn into responding to D’s allegations (which would play into his hands) or making public statements on it. Unless there is a significant takeup by US media, NGO or lawyers on behalf of customers, Donovan will sooner rather than later turn his attention to other existing (eg North Sea safety etc) or new issues. However, he won’t forget about it – he is always looking for linkages so he can present these as supposedly reflecting a pattern of improper behaviour, rather than being isolated (and usually inaccurate, misinterpreted or exaggerated) incidents.”

Shell arranged “monitoring of media (especially The Chicago Times and The Chicago Sun-Times

Shell “assembled an issues team that has had daily telecons so everyone stays updated.”Revealed in same email: “We continue to monitor his website. We have assigned one of our attorneys to monitor, and have given instructions to other employees not to visit the site. We will continue to hold meetings regularly…” Goes on to say: “any Shell response would be likely to give D credibility and trigger interest by eg the media.” Confirms: “US Downstream are running this, linked to the Lubes COB in Shell Centre.

Email on 6 September 2007 says: “…our legal counsel continues to monitor the website for any potential updates/new articles that Donovan could post.

It is notable that although our articles are characterized in the Shell internal emails as being “usually inaccurate, misinterpreted or exaggerated”, there is no denial that the fundamental facts in the relevant case – Shell complicity in a long term consumer fraud – are true. Hence the concern about lawyers picking up the story from the media and bringing a class action against Shell.

Shell management tactics in dealing with the events brought to its attention by a loyal, diligent and honest employee and its response to my article, demonstrate once again that the pledges of honesty, integrity and openness proclaimed in Shell’s business principles are nothing more than a confidence trick.

The Pennzoil story was brought to us by an insider who worked for the company for over 25 years. Like so many other disillusioned Shell employees, he was shattered by the discovery that Shell is not the ethical company it claims to be.  We have numerous Shell internal emails supplied by the whistle blower. They provide evidence that monetary considerations take priority over employee safety and mere ethical considerations, such as drivers being deliberately cheated by fraudulent activity.

The Shell internal emails supplied to us by the whistle blower also mention improper activity at Jiffy Lube outlets, a Shell Oil subsidiary.

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