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The Scotsman: Concerns over potential £3m windfall

The Scotsman: Concerns over potential £3m windfall

“Ensuing investigations by the US Securities and Exchanges Commission and the UK Financial Services Authority revealed that the oil major had been over-inflating its reserves since 1998, implicating the company’s top management in the scandal.”

CATRINA STEWART

Posted 29 August 2004

A CORPORATE governance watchdog has flagged concerns over share option rewards for disgraced Royal Dutch/Shell executives Sir Philip Watts and Walter van de Vijver.

Sir Philip and Van de Vijver, who resigned this year along with chief financial officer Judy Boynton over the reserves scandal at Shell, could reap windfalls of over £3 million apiece if the dual-listed company’s share price achieves certain levels, said the Pensions Investment Research Consultancy (Pirc) this week.

The disclosure in January that Shell had “recategorised” 3.9 billion barrels of its proven reserves slashed £2.9 billion off Shell’s market capitalisation in one day.

In addition to a yearly pension of £584,070 and a severance package of £1.057m, Sir Philip could net £3.1m from his options if Shell’s stock rises to 552p, a 40 per cent increase on yesterday’s trading at 404.75p.

The Dutch-listed stock of the oil giant would have to rise by 70 per cent if Van de Vijver, who received a termination pay-out of £2.57m and is entitled to a yearly pension of £260,400, is to make £3.6m from the scheme.

The two men have up to five years to exercise their options, which Shell says are subject to “continuing co- operation with and review by relevant authorities”.

David Somerlinck, policy manager at Pirc, criticised the exclusion of shareholders from the severance process. “Shareholders need the power to approve pay-offs,” he said.

Sir Philip and Van de Vijver were ousted after one of the most turbulent periods of Shell’s history, when the oil major drew investors’ ire for overstating its proven reserves by an eventual 4.47 billion barrels, nearly 25 per cent of its total proven reserves.

Ensuing investigations by the US Securities and Exchanges Commission and the UK Financial Services Authority revealed that the oil major had been over-inflating its reserves since 1998, implicating the company’s top management in the scandal.

New management, under Jeroen van der Veer and Malcolm Brinded, has sought to distance itself from the actions of the previous leadership, pledging to reveal new corporate governance measures in November.

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