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Can Shell CEO Ben van Beurden Survive OPL 245?

Amazing that after that experience, his reaction was to opt for the same cover-up culture/mentality of Shell senior management which led to Watts being escorted from Shell Centre in London by security staff.

By John Donovan

Ben van Beurden had no involvement in the $1.3bn OPL 245 corruption scandal until after he became Chief Executive Officer of Royal Dutch Shell Plc. He was not involved in the shady negotiations or the eventual deal.

Based on what he said in the surreptitiously recorded telephone conversation with his then-subordinate Simon Henry, the then Chief Executive of the company, he is, however, guilty of cover-up tactics and gross hypocrisy.

The intercepted call took place on the day that Shell’s Netherlands HQ was raided. The police spent hours searching his office and removed a folder of documents.

Ben van Beurden discussed in the call whether to make a disclosure to the US Department of Justice about the OPL 245 scandal because Shell was already under a deferred prosecution deal relating to previous Shell corruption in Nigeria. He confessed misgivings to Henry about whether Shell had already been less than open with the DOJ.

On whose side was Ben van Beurden acting in response to the police raid?

Not on behalf of Shell shareholders. He wanted to keep them in the dark. Van Beurden suggested that Shell should not disclose the raid to shareholders, saying to Henry “The last thing you want of course is some sort of request to issue a stock exchange release when there is nothing to be said other than that we are being asked to provide information.”

Not in the interests of justice. Instead of setting the right example, he instructed Henry to withhold evidence from investigating police. He told Henry: “don’t volunteer any information that is not requested.”

Such an instruction was directly at odds with Shell’s claimed business principles pledging honesty, integrity and transparency in all Shell dealings. See his signed introduction to SHELL GENERAL BUSINESS PRINCIPLES.

All such lofty considerations were swept aside by Ben van Beurden in the apparent hope of covering up or diminishing the impact of the scandal.

He has taken the same approach in relation to the corruption surrounding the Shell led Corrib Gas Project in Ireland. Directors of a Shell contractor company OSSL have admitted – under oath in Court – distributing bribes and engaging in other criminal conduct on behalf of Shell.  A director of OSSL Mr Desmond Kane has discussed the Shell Irish corruption scandal directly with Ben van Beurden and his predecessor, Peter Voser. I understand that he will be doing so again very shortly if Ben van Beurden has not resigned in the meantime.

Ben van Beurden is not a stranger to high-level Shell corruption. “He worked as private assistant to the chairman, Phil Watts, from 2002-04, including during the 2004 accounting scandal, when it emerged Shell had overstated its oil reserves. This led to a purge of senior management, but Mr van Beurden continued to rise.”

Amazing that after that experience, his reaction was to opt for the same cover-up culture/mentality of Shell senior management which led to Watts being escorted from Shell Centre in London by security staff.

Finally, I declare my modest contribution to the OPL 245 investigations carried out by the great people at Global Witness and Finance Uncovered. Lots of correspondence with the founders/investigators and a meeting at my house some time ago. Basically insider information and introductions. I am much impressed with the work these non-profit organisations have all put into their investigations, which are in the best interests of the public and shareholders. Thank goodness there are people of real integrity around to hold multinationals to account.

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


  1. Voser says:

    Hypocracy appears to become Ben’s trademark.
    Shell’s proclaimed core values are: “honesty, integrity and respect”
    Ben’s cover-up attempt is contravening, if not violating, these 3 core values.
    When sweeping the stairs you start at the top. The tone and behaviour at the Shell top must change.
    A CEO that claims Shell operates in a difficult business environment, where focus on cost is paramount, in order to justify yet another salary freeze, and at the same time does not have a problem with receiving a 2.1% base salary increase himself again, is just a hypocrite.

  2. TotallyHackedOff says:

    It all makes sense to me now- the values and culture of the company really do come from the top. I’d thought for a while that the managers and VP’s were all acting and behaving in a way that transcended the values of the CEO and his closest confidants. But it seems like BvB is as much as a tosser as the rest of them. Silly me.

  3. Fed up says:

    Hopefully, this will be the end of Ben’s reign. It has been heartbreaking to watch this company hijacked by the bean counters. To many cash-generating assets have been sold off to fund Ben’s ill-fated BG dream – which has as of yet not generated a single project that I have heard off. Then the number of quality and loyal staff that have been let go (and will be let go) all to maintain the all mighty dividend … and on top of it all they expect more with less, well it will be interesting to see how many staff leave once oil price recovers.

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