CHAPTER 4: Shell hypocrisy

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In October 1996, I received an unsolicited letter of apology from Shell Chairman Dr. Chris Fay for the way we were treated by Shell. His letter arrived after Shell had already settled out of court with us for four High Court actions and one County Court case. As can be seen, the tone of the letter not meant for public consumption was totally at odds with press releases issued by Shell before and after his letter. The tone of the apology letter from Dr Fay (shown immediately below) was totally at odds with press releases and statements published or distributed to third parties by Shell before and after his letter. Examples are displayed. It is therefore difficult to avoid the conclusion that the apology letter was disingenuous.

The press statement issued by Shell 17 March 1995, the year before the apology letter.

Press release issued by Shell 14 April 1998.

Press release issued by Shell 21 April 1998.

2-page letter dated 25 April 1998 sent by Shell to partners in the SMART multi-partner loyalty card scheme.

Letter dated 27 April 1998 sent by Shell UK Limited to all Shell retailers in the UK.

Press release by Shell in November 1998.

Article authored by Shell Legal Director Richard Wiseman and published by Shell in November 1998.

This was a crucial piece of evidence Shell withheld from Mr Justice Laddie QC, the High Court Judge in the Smart trial, which took place several months later.

Ironically, Mr Wiseman was later appointed as the Chief Ethics & Compliance Officer of Royal Dutch Shell Plc.

A few months later Mr Wiseman was engaged in mysterious correspondence with the editor of Time Magazine about me.

The letter from the editor was sent in response to a SAR application we made to Shell. 

We were not given sight of the letter from Mr Wiseman that triggered the hostile reply asking for an apology.

I have no idea what Mr Wiseman was worked up about.

Perhaps he was becoming paranoid about me by that stage.

Again, ironic, bearing in mind that I believe he was behind the letter of apology I received from his boss, Dr Fay.

I can provide a second breathtaking example of Shell hypocrisy.

A Shell executive brought up the subject of our Shell Make Money game and asserted that if Shell “run Make Money again, we would probably do it off our own backs.”

I immediately pointed out: “I have got a letter from Shell saying we have equal rights to Make Money and I will produce that letter anytime you want to see it.” The Shell executive replied: “I don’t care about that, what I’m saying is that if we want to run Make Money again, then we know how to do it, we can go out and do it.”

The text in italics comes from a transcript of the conversation.

We then discovered that Shell was secretly printing a new Make Money game in North Wales.

We made strong representations to Shell.

Shell lawyers rejected our Make Money claim out of hand.

We issued a High Court Writ in 1994. Shell was forced to settle.

Imagine our surprise when the following reference was made to our Make Money claim in a statement by solicitors acting for Shell which was supplied to CEDR mediators in August 1996. The mediation was in relation to the Nintendo and “Now Showing” High Court actions we brought against Shell, both also settled out of court according to Shell Legal Director, Richard Wiseman on moral grounds.

The Shell Make Money extract:

“Shell recognised that Don had perfect rights to claim sums due in respect of Make Money, and the agreed sum was paid within a matter of days of proceedings being issued. Shell also recognises and acknowledges the long and successful trading history between the two companies. Don have been involved in a number of successful promotions run by Shell, concluding with a promotion known as Star Trek in 1992. Don’s considerable assistance in previous years Is formally acknowledged by Shell.”

So when it suited Shell it rubbished our Make Money claim, but later acknowledged in writing that we actually had perfect rights.  This was when Shell was trying to curry favour with the mediators by pretending that Shell had treated us properly!

That notion was completely undermined by the letter of apology we received from the Chairman of Shell UK Limited in October 1996.

USE BROWSER TO ENLARGE IMAGE

In its DEFENCE AND COUNTERCLAIM filed for the High Court action in June 1999 Shell reversed its position again on Shell Make Money.

Shell also denied that we Don Marketing had originated the Shell Star Trek game.

Fortunately, a magazine had published a multipage article documenting the circumstances of how I had the idea and that I had arranged a licencing deal in principle with Paramount Pictures before even approaching Shell. More about that later.

Suffice it to say that based on my experience Shell does not seem to have any regard for the truth.

That takes me to the third and perhaps most significant act of sustained hypocrisy on the part of Shell.

I refer to…

SHELL’S SHAM BUSINESS PRINCIPLES.

Since 1976 Shell has proclaimed that it operates within a set of business principles pledging honesty, integrity, openness and respect for people.

An extract from the March 1997 edition

Shell companies have as their core values honesty, integrity and respect for people. Shell companies also firmly believe in the fundamental importance of the promotion of trust, openness, teamwork and professionalism, and in pride in what they do.

Unfortunately, like a bet placed with a bookmaker, the claimed principles are binding in honour only. There is no legal redress for any breach of the solemn pledges.

Just as well for Shell bearing in mind its toxic track record, including a securities fraud that came to light in 2004 and brought about the forced merger of the Anglo-Dutch arms of the oil giant.

We decided to put Shell under pressure not just in the high court on legal grounds but also in the court of public opinion on moral grounds, bearing in mind the bombardment of threats and the sinister covert activity, all of which was entirely incompatible with Shell’s claimed Business Principles.

We established during correspondence with Shell’s top lawyer Richard Wiseman that the Business Principles have no legal value. Read his faxed letter dated 5 June 1997.

Letter to Shell General Counsel and Company Secretary, Mr Richard Wiseman, dated 2 June 1997

Initial response letter from Mr Wiseman dated 3 June 1997

Considered response letter from Mr Wiseman dated 5 June 1997

In correspondence on the subject with the No 10 Downing Street and the Office of Fair Trading, we correctly described them as a conman’s charter.

The correspondence took place before it became evident that the then PM Tony Blair had a special relationship with Shell.

All these years later there is still no statutory backing for codes of conduct such as Shell’s Business Principles. They are still worthless. They may have caught the judges attention but we established the legal reality.

Extract from my letter to the PM dated 5 May 1998:

These solemn pledges are being showered on the UK public like confetti, and apparently have about as much value, as they apparently have no legal standing whatsoever.

Shell’s deeds are unfortunately far removed from its words.

Ask the Ogoni people in Nigeria where Shell has plundered and polluted for decades.

How can a multinational giant promise so much yet act so badly?

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