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Shell false pledges of transparency and openness

By John Donovan

Shell chief executive Ben van Beurden says that he believes in the fundamental importance of openness by Shell. This echo’s comments made previously by Jorma Ollila when he was Chairman of Royal Dutch Shell Plc. He said in a speech at the 2014 AGM “Shell believes in transparency and your board has high levels of commitment to this.”

Unfortunately Shell senior management deeds do not, in practice, match their lofty words.

On 22 May I wrote to Shell Legal Director Donny Ching asking him to instruct Shell US lawyers Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP, to release for use in the Dutch courts over 100,000 items of evidence gathered by Shell internally in relation to its past conduct in Nigeria. Alleged human rights abuses, including alleged complicity in the murder of Ogoni leaders.

Since 2001, Esther Kiobel, the widow of one of the alleged victims, Dr Barinem Kiobel,  has been trying to bring her case before the courts, but Shell has used all of its considerable resources and influence to prevent this happening.

In a legal submission made by Cravath on 1 June it was accepted that Shell has constructive possession of the 100,000 plus items held securely by Cravath in the USA.

(From page 27 of 39 pages Kiobeldoc86.pdf: But, as Kiobel concedes (at 33-34), Shell has constructive possession of the documents through Cravath.)

For over a decade, Shell has spent vast sums paying for top US lawyers to prevent any of the evidence being heard in open court. Remember, this is all evidence gathered internally by Shell as part of the litigation process.

If the company has nothing to hide, why does it not instruct its lawyers to hand over the same evidence for potential use in the Dutch Courts?

There was no response from Donny Ching. He ignored my email.

Shell’s deeds in the Kiobel case are entirely in line with the instructions from Ben van Beurden to then Shell CFO Simon Henry that he should not volunteer any information to the police authorities searching Shell HQ offices in regards to the OPL 245 Nigerian corruption investigation.

Cover-up continues to be the culture at Shell.

So much for transparency and openness.

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