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Donovan email correspondence with Shell ending 16 June 2011


It is our normal practice to publish our email correspondence with Shell.

In this instance, for legal reasons, we will provide a record of recent emails, but mainly in an abridged form.

They mostly concern allegations of a sexual nature relating to a senior Shell executive.

On 26 May I sent an email to a senior Shell executive advising of serious allegations of his alleged improper relationship with some female Shell employees.

I stated:

“If you categorically deny each of the allegations in an unequivocal manner, then I would accept that denial and take no further action.”

There was no response, so on 1 June I sent two further emails enclosing a draft of an article we intended to publish the following day. The second email highlighted the alleged “serial infidelity involving Shell staff.” I repeated the promise indicated above, of no further action on our part in the event of a categorical denial.

On 2 June, we published the article entitled: Serious allegations against a Senior Shell Executive

There was still no response.

On 6 June, we published a follow-up article entitled: Sex scandal allegations against a Shell executive

It contained an email on the matter, which I sent to Mr Michiel Brandjes that same day, 6 June, asking if “your colleague” (the subject of the allegations) had, as I assumed, forwarded on to Mr Brandjes the emails I had sent containing the allegations. Mr Brandjes is the Company Secretary and General Counsel Corporate of Royal Dutch Shell Plc.

On 9 June, I received a response from Mr Brandjes saying:

I am in receipt of your email dated 6 June, thank you.

I do not possess any emails containing information on the allegations you reference in your email below.

Later the same day, 9 June, I resent to the senior Shell executive all previous emails to him on the subject, and issued in mild terms what amounted to an ultimatum and deadline implying that if he did not voluntarily supply the emails to Mr Brandjes, then I would do so.

The following day, 10 June, I received an email from Mr Brandjes stating:

I confirm that the emails you refer to have been forwarded to me. The company will now review these emails as appropriate.

So I did not need to supply them.

On 14 June, I sent an email to Mr Brandjes offering the prospect of further information, which had been supplied to us overnight by a Shell insider.

Later the same day, I forwarded on to Mr Brandjes an email I received purportedly from Shell IT Security. Attached was a security update package with a password, explanation and instructions on installation. I advised Mr Brandjes that the email was “some kind of malicious fake.” Mr Brandjes replied that afternoon, saying he would forward it to Shell IT Security.

The same day, out of the blue, I received an email from Jill Davis, Media, Issues and Crisis Manager for Shell Oil Company HQ in Houston. Jill Davis later confirmed that her email was authentic and I published the information she supplied.

Motiva refutes assertion of sole-source supply for Port Arthur refinery

On 15 June I advised Mr Brandjes that we had received further insider information overnight concerning the allegations. I pointed out that (1) Shell had not taken up the prospect of receiving further information and (2) almost three weeks had passed and the relevant senior Shell executive had not issued a denial of which we were aware.

Mr Brandjes requested an additional day to reply, to which I agreed.

It was not needed, we received the following response later that same day. The relevant Shell executives name has been redacted.  The space denoting the redacted name bears no relationship to the length of the name.

From: [email protected]
Date: 15 June 2011 17:24:32 GMT+01:00
To: [email protected]
Subject: Code of Conduct

Dear Mr Donovan,

We have no indication that Mr.               noticed or received your email of three weeks ago. When you (re)sent the emails last week, they were forwarded to me, which I confirmed to yourself.

The follow up of the unsubstantiated allegations in the email you have forwarded did not lead us to conclude that there has been a breach of the Code of Conduct of the Company and Mr.                      categorically denies the allegations.

Clearly, if we are presented with credible evidence we will investigate further and any person who has any concerns about breaches of the Code of Conduct should report these via the Shell Global Helpline (

Please note that the Company reserves its rights with respect to anything you publish that is prejudicial or untrue or harmful. Although the Company does not speak on behalf of Mr.                   , the safe assumption is that the same applies for Mr.               .

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

We had sought a categorical denial from the outset and it has now been supplied to our satisfaction.

In relation to the Shell Whistleblowers Helpline, last time we investigated it turned out that although a specialist, supposedly independent firm paid by Shell, investigates allegations, Shell senior executives still retain ultimate control over the end process, making it all rather meaningless, unless the intent is to present so many hurdles that employees give up. Perhaps it has changed.

With regard to legal threats, if Shell is keen to face us in the libel courts again, lets deal with issues of Shell management misdeeds, rather than allegations against a single individual. There are so many subjects e.g. IT property theft, industrial espionage, fraud, price-fixing, contract tender rigging, plus corruption, spying, human rights abuses and pollution in Nigeria. These are not allegations, but fact, supported by evidence. Or perhaps Shell would like to deal in open court with its Nazi past? It made threats in that regard in March of this year.

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