The actions of an ambitious, unethical young Shell executive, intent on ruthlessly exploiting his position at Shell for personal gain, poisoned the previously excellent relationship we had enjoyed with the oil giant. Unfortunately, Shell senior management gave their full backing to the relevant unscrupulous executive: a decision they must regret as it has since cost the Group billions of dollars.
In 1992, in our capacity as directors of Don Marketing, a colleague and I presented in strictest confidence, a series of sales promotion ideas to a new Shell UK National Promotions Manager.
As many years have past, I have only used within this book the initials – AJL – of the relevant individuals’ name. I cannot do the same for items already published i.e. linked documents, media articles, correspondence and electronic communications.
After giving us a very positive response to our proposals, including encouraging email messages, AJL secretly funnelled our ideas to a promotions agency with whom he had a special relationship.
It was evident from the hand-written notes of AJL in his diary (obtained during “discovery” years later), that he was a disgruntled employee who had recorded his intent to set up a personal business while at Shell and exit the company at the age of 35. Presumably on the basis of building up sufficient funds in the meantime. He had an offshore bank account in Jersey.
His diary notes mention “Project Hercules,” the code name for “Shell Smart” – a multiple retail partner loyalty scheme. Shell Smart was based on a concept we had offered to him in strictest confidence during one of many presentations we made to him at Shell-Mex House.
The subsequent Smart breach of confidence litigation culminated in a High Court trial that began on 15 June 1999. It concluded abruptly three weeks later, on 6 July, when the case was settled mid-trial. A related libel action I brought against Shell had been put on hold pending the outcome of the breach of confidence case.
It seems from these pages of his diary that AJL intended to close his National Savings accounts and transfer funds from Nat West Bank (NWB) to other accounts in Jersey. AJL never had the opportunity to explain these notes during his cross-examination in the Smart High Court trial. Shell settled the case during his cross-examination.
Diary Entry Monday 25 July 1994
AJL listed his intention at the foot of the second page under “Personal”: Set up personal business while @ Shell 35yrs = exit date.
In the last four lines of an entry made on 12 October 1994 (second page) regarding “PDP” (Personal Development Plan?) AJL was noting that he had not received due credit for his work including involvement in Project Hercules. There were two references of an unknown nature to Don Marketing in those two pages of his diary.
I also found out from discovery documents, that AJL was prepared to engage in an illegal act on behalf of Shell in relation to “Hercules.” Extract from AJL email to senior Shell colleagues 4 Nov 1993:
NB: To answer your last point: My note of 25/10 is the official position, my note of 9/9 expressed a personal and pragmatic view of how to handle the problem’ it is in fact illegal and is certainly unofficial, and if we were discovered then we will enforce the official legal position – which is that all volume must currently be rewarded with promotional points.
AJL described himself in another internal email to several Shell colleagues as having“Machiavellian views”.
I want so far as possible to allow everyone else to get involved in the elements of the project that they’d prefer rather than simply imposing my machiavellian views. Hence if you have any preferences can you express them from this little lot of areas which will need attention/work:
I would not argue with the accuracy of AJL’s own description of himself, which he self-evidently boasted about.
A definition from dictionary.com for “Machiavellian” seems appropriate:
3. characterized by subtle or unscrupulous cunning, deception, expediency, or dishonesty: He resorted to Machiavellian tactics in order to get ahead.
Unfortunately, we were totally ignorant of this background when we innocently disclosed our ideas to AJL.
One after another, our ideas were adopted for national promotions launched by Shell, through the agency linked with AJL, with whom he had a personal relationship. He was a personal friend of the directors. They visited his house for dinner parties. He went to the theatre with them. Information sourced from his diary entries.
RIGGED TENDER PROCESS
AJL arranged for the same favoured agency to miraculously win a SMART contract that had been put out to tender, even though they never took part in the tender. This was analogous to a horse winning a race in which it did not run.
I found irrefutable evidence in discovery that AJL had masterminded the rigging of the tender process. The conspiracy involved other Shell staff, including his line manager and, at least, one senior executive still employed by Shell, Mr Tim Hannigan.
They deliberately connived to obtain confidential information from several companies under false pretences. The companies were lured into the closing stages of a contract tender process. They were enticed into confidentiality agreements, again under false pretences.
AJL turned the whole process into a plot to steal information from participants in the tender when by that stage they had no prospect of winning the Project Hercules(Smart) contract in question.
Despite the damning evidence, Senior Shell executives, including a Shell Managing Director Malcolm Brinded, gave AJL their full backing when I bought the rigged tender process to their attention.
The following is an extract from page 69 of a Witness Statement AJL signed on 8 April 1999 when he mentioned the unreserved support he received from the highest levels:
“Such behaviour has caused me much stress and has only been tolerable because of the unreserved support I have received from Shell management to the highest levels as well as my colleagues, and because I am confident of our position.”
Shell UK’s Legal Director, Richard Wiseman also gave his full backing to AJL. This was despite being aware of the rigged tender process. His legal team provided the confidentiality agreements that were an integral part of the devious plan, which was ruthlessly executed.
Mr Wiseman admitted bending professional rules on an earlier matter. It, therefore, struck me as ironic when he was later appointed as Chief Ethics & Compliance Officer of Royal Dutch Shell Plc and made anti-corruption speeches promoting ethical behaviour.
I am sure he had no connection with the Cloak and Dagger activity that I will come to, other than what he and Shell’s external solicitors admitted in writing.
Mr Richard Wiseman (photo below) retired in February 2011. During his long career at Shell he had been a director of numerous companies within the Royal Dutch Shell Group. He has honestly held views and was totally loyal to Shell.shellplc.website and its sister non-profit websites royaldutchshellplc.com, royaldutchshellgroup.com, shellenergy.website, shellnazihistory.com, royaldutchshell.website, johndonovan.website, shellnews.net and shell2004.com are owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia feature.