By John Donovan
In a press release issued on 3 August 2007, David Pirret, Executive Vice President of Shell Lubricants claimed that “Shell Lubricants has some of the world’s most trusted brands”. He named Pennzoil, a well known and previously highly respected oil brand now owned by Shell, as being one of its “trusted” brands.
It turns out that consumer trust in Shell and in the Pennzoil brand is misplaced. Evidence has emerged of a huge gap between the public relations rhetoric and reality.
Shell Oil Products senior management, as well as staff from Shell legal, HR, credit, security and retail, have been aware for some years of a sleazy fraud perpetrated on customers at a USA retail chain, The Grease Spot, Inc which sells Pennzoil.
Drivers have for years been purchasing Pennzoil at The Grease Spot, Inc outlets blissfully unaware of the fact that due to a deliberate chain wide fraud, the product has been tainted by being mixed with an inferior non Pennzoil product. The fraud has been going on with Shell’s knowledge for a number of years. Despite knowing full well what was being done, Shell management continued to supply the chain.
Motorists have been cheated and oil has been sold under false pretences with Shell’s knowledge, as being Pennzoil, when in fact that was not the case.
Even worse, we have documented evidence of very serious threats of violence being used by The Grease Spot, Inc to intimidate honest Shell employees who wanted to stop the fraud. Millions of dollars are involved.
Under the circumstances a large number of motorists have grounds to bring a class action against The Grease Spot, Inc and against Shell Oil Products. The appropriate authorities are also likely to take action in respect of the fraud.
In this connection, we are also in possession of Shell Oil internal communications which provide irrefutable evidence of Shell’s knowledge of the fraud and of its failure to take action to prevent consumers being ripped off at participating retail outlets, or to stop the extremely serious related intimidation against Shell employees.
The following Shell Oil Product employees, from Vice President down, have had knowledge of the Pennzoil scandal: - Bob Knorr, Michael Wilson, Liz Mcgrew, Chris Dykes, Martin Andersen, John King, Challie Wilson, Mitch Lanier, Tim Herold, Todd Cox, Jeff Coleman, Jerry Ranieri, George Schnarr, David Haney, Travis Farmer and Ian Perry.
The evidence of the fraud and threats of violence was supplied by a Shell Oil Company insider to John Donovan (the author of this article), co-owner of the website www.royaldutchshellplc.com recently described by the Financial Times as being “anti-Shell”, which it says has “long been a thorn in Shell’s side”. This is the website responsible for Shell *losing billions on the Sakhalin-2 project in Russia and the recent resignation of David Greer, the Deputy Chief Executive of Sakhalin Energy Investment Company, following a scandal exposed through insider information supplied to the website. Greer worked 27 years for Shell and was a Shell Managing Director.
Shell high command including David Pirret, Executive Vice President of Shell Lubricants, John Hofmeister, President of Shell Oil Company, Jeroen van der Veer, CEO of Royal Dutch Shell Plc and Jorma Olllila, its Chairman, were also given advance sight of the above article.
This is an extract from the approach made to Shell: -
We will be adding a paragraph explaining that you and other senior Shell managers including Mr Hofmeister have had advance sight of the article and have not denied the story by saying that it is a hoax, or that the allegations are entirely without foundation. You have not taken issue with any stated facts as Shell has done on previous occasions when such an offer was made prior to publication. In the absence of any such denials in this case, we are taking it that the story of fraud in relation to Pennzoil and the failure to protect Shell employees from related serious long term intimidation is entirely true.
We received the following emailed response from Shell International General Counsel Richard Wiseman on 21 August 2007.
"As always, you should never assume that failure to deny your assertions is an admission on Shell’s part, nor should you represent this to be so on this occasion, or ever".
General Counsel M & A and Project Finance
SHELL EMAIL ENDS
We will leave it to readers to decide whether the mighty Royal Dutch Shell Group, worth hundreds of billions of dollars and with an in-house army of 650 lawyers, would have allowed this article to be published if the allegations in it were untrue. I think we all know the answer.
The is not the first time that a Shell Oil Products brand has been tarnished.
Jiffy Lube International
In December 2004, an Oklahoma state judge approved a class action settlement between Royal Dutch Shell subsidiary Jiffy Lube International and millions of U.S. plaintiffs. The agreement settled nine similar lawsuits from California to New Jersey over environmental surcharges Jiffy Lube imposed on its oil change customers. Under the terms of the settlement, Jiffy Lube provided more than seven million customers with a coupon good for $5 off an oil change. An earlier report in the same newspaper said that Jiffy Lube added surcharges to drivers’ oil-change bills over the past five years on the pretext of being an environmental surcharge, in an attempt to fool customers into thinking it was a tax. Scott R. Shepherd, a Pennsylvania attorney who sued the Jiffy Lube was quoted as saying: “It was just a straight rip-off for $1.25 every time someone came in”.
(The above reference to the Jiffy Lube fraud is taken from the Wikipedia article, “Controversies Surrounding Royal Dutch Shell”:
Today, 22 August 2007, the Houston Cronicle reported that Shell is being sued for alleged gas price fixing. Below are extracts from the article: -
"SAN FRANCISCO — Nearly two dozen gas station owners in California sued Shell Oil Co., Chevron Corp. and Saudi Refining Inc., on Tuesday, claiming the companies conspired to fix prices for 23,000 franchise owners nationwide".
"…chairmen of the three oil companies met privately nearly every month starting in March 1996 for the “purpose of forming and organizing a combination.” The lawsuit alleges executives destroyed documents from the meetings…"
All of the above activity has taken place while the President of Shell Oil Company, John Hofmeister, is engaged in a 50 city tour of American singing the praises of Shell.