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Unique relationship between Shell shareholder activist and Royal Dutch Shell continues

By John Donovan

Printed below is an email reply received yesterday from Royal Dutch Shell Plc Company Secretary & General Counsel Corporate, Michiel Brandjes (right) together with my self-explanatory, constructive response sent today.

Any further response from Mr Brandjes will be published.

On 22 Dec 2009, at 11:18, [email protected] wrote:

Dear Mr Donovan,

Thank you for your message. I have referred all your emails regarding Data Protection Act (“DPA”) matters to the relevant staff and officers dealing with such matters and take it that they have responded as they deem appropriate. I am at this time not a spokes person for the Company in these DPA matters and a response by a Shell spokes person to a message addressed to me should count as a response by me.

It is in my DNA indeed to respond to all and everything as appropriate. However, while that is the starting position please note that I can not be held to always respond to everything as a Company Secretary. There are messages which do not call for a response or not by me, there are matters in which a further response can not serve any purpose, and there are persons with whom I do not or no longer communicate for justified reasons. I intend to continue to help genuine third parties whom you refer to me and do not fall in the earlier mentioned categories.

Rests me to wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Michiel Brandjes
Company Secretary and General Counsel Corporate
Royal Dutch Shell plc

Registered office: Shell Centre London SE1 7NA UK
Place of registration and number: England 4366849
Correspondence address: PO Box 162, 2501 AN  The Hague,
The Netherlands

Email: [email protected]


From: John Donovan <[email protected]>
Date: 23 December 2009 18:45:21 GMT
To: [email protected]
Cc: [email protected]
Subject: Re: Shell Invisible Investigations and the Data Protection Act

Dear Mr Brandjes

Thank you for your reply. The relevant Shell staff and officers dealing with these matters made no response, not even an acknowledgment. From what you say, it seems safe to conclude that my email to you of 21 December 2009 has also been passed on to the same people.

With regard to your second paragraph, it is good to know that I do not fall within the category of persons with whom you no longer communicate. I am also pleased to read that you will continue to help genuine third parties who contact us. We have always made plain our appreciation. Please be assured that we carefully vet the incoming job applications, business proposals, enquiries etc meant for Shell, using the authority you have given to us, and only pass on what we deem appropriate. Job applicants are directed to the appropriate web page on We are always polite.

Reading through the extensive Shell internal and external correspondence supplied to us under the DPA, it is abundantly clear that there is growing hostility, anxiety and frustration. Shell is anxious that it “should not give the impression that we are over-concerned with the D’s website, or that management spends a lot of time worrying about it“.

However, the overwhelming evidence in the documents is that Shell is actually mesmerized by our website, with constant monitoring by Shell lawyers, Shell media, and Shell security on a global basis, with us and/or the site being discussed in Shell conferences, workshops etc. Also countless preparations over the years to try to anticipate and answer questions we might raise at a Shell AGM, when in fact we have not asked any questions at the AGM for over a decade.

All of this activity must cost Shell a fortune. And the collective impact of our activities on the reputation of Royal Dutch Shell Plc is incalculable.

I note that in one recent email, someone asks: “Have you tried to engage with the Donovans, to try to bring then onside of get them to tone down their anti Shell stance?” This prospect seems unlikely for a variety of reasons, including the stumbling block of the person at Shell who everyone seems to turn to when our name comes up, no doubt because of his long involvement with matters relating to us.  We both know who I am talking about. Why anyone should pay the least bit of attention to his advice or his self-serving account of past events is beyond my comprehension, bearing in mind that it is his miscalculations over the years that have resulted in the current untenable situation for Shell. If it were not for his incompetence, misjudgment and hostility towards us, our websites would not exist.

I do however believe that with a modicum of goodwill, we could move back to a less acrimonious relationship, where we voluntarily give Shell advance sight of controversial articles authored by us, so that Shell has the opportunity to say if anything stated is categorically untrue, in which event it would be deleted. We would also publish unedited within the article, any comments Shell wished to provide. That would be a step forward for commonsense and accuracy. If Shell decided we were not giving reasonable consideration to what you were saying, then you would obviously cease the arrangement.  If Shell has any ideas about how we could work together without impairing our editorial independence, or changing our non-commercial basis of operation, which we wish to preserve, we are completely open to suggestions.

We do intend to continue indefinitely with editing of RDS related Wikipedia articles, publication of our own outspoken articles and blog postings, plus leaflet distribution at Shell Centre and Shell AGM’s (where we will raise some questions Shell has not yet anticipated).  We would welcome Shell input to remove any factually inaccurate content from any of these publications.

It does seem a great pity that there is no benefit from the revenues which would accrue from advertising on a website which receives over two million hits every month. Shell is welcome to see the stats. I have suggested to you before that we could donate any such income to a charitable cause. I now have a specific proposal for you to consider while still in the season of goodwill.

When I raised this kind of suggestion before, there were still hard feelings about the outcome of the domain name proceedings. We can now see from the Shell documents provided under the DPA that Shell decided that it would not be appropriate in this case to mount a legal challenge in the courts. Furthermore, from an email date 25 August 2009, I get the impression that contrary to the arguments put forward to the WIPO,  Shell never attached any great significance to the domain name, which is no doubt why you did not bother to register it in the first place.  Shell only wanted it to stop us using it. So that issue seems settled. I note that legal precedence continues to reaffirm the unanimous verdict reached by the World Intellectual Property Organisation panel of leading IP lawyers headed by Professor Daniel J. Gervais, regarding

Please therefore let me know if you are prepared to give your blessing (no permission is needed) to our proposal that Google AdWords advertising is added to the website on the basis that ALL revenue from the advertising, every penny, will be donated to the Shell UK Pensioners Hardship Fund. I am sure you will agree this is a very worthy cause, particularly during the current difficult economic climate.

My father and I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

John Donovan

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

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