It’s hard to believe it was over two years ago now. You may recall, the start of 2004 saw the revelation that Shell had overstated its oil reserves. Bad announcement followed bad announcement, resignations followed, and ultimately the crisis claimed the head of chairman, Sir Philip Watts. Before the dust had time to settle it emerged that the company’s head of exploration, Walter van de Vijver, had said, in an emailed statement to his boss, that he was “sick and tired about lying.”

Then the legal process began. Both friends and family of Sir Philip Watts’s must have feared the worst.

But then, not without controversy, the Financial Services Authority decided not to take further action against the former Shell head man. Aggrieved shareholders, baying for blood, then turned their hopes to the US Securities and Exchange Committee. The SEC does not tend to take prisoners. If it suspects wrongdoing, it acts like a pit bull – as soon as it has its jaws around your neck, you’re stuffed.

But yesterday, even the SEC relented, announcing that it to had decided not to take any action against Sir Philip. The former Shell man said “I am extremely pleased the US authorities have closed the investigation. As I have stated from the beginning, I have acted in good faith throughout and I had every reason to believe that Shell acted properly and in good faith when disclosing proved reserves.”

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