Chapter 22: Author’s unique connection with Shell

John Donovan, the author of “Sir Henri Deterding and the Nazi History of Royal Dutch Shell

As the Chairman of an International sales promotion agency and more recently as an individual, I have a relationship with Royal Dutch Shell stretching back over 35 years. It has been the subject of media coverage in newspapers, magazines and TV news and documentary features. It took a wrong turn when Shell misappropriated  ideas I had disclosed to the company in strictest confidence.

In  the Ed Vulliamy article about my campaign to rename a $3 billion new ship hired by Shell, reference was made to a Shell related website I co-founded with my late father a decade ago: 

The site,, is run by John Donovan, a former Shell contractor who is completing a book on the history of the company’s relations with the Third Reich.

To be more accurate, I was a founder and chairman of a marketing company, Don Marketing, that created and supplied promotions to Shell on an international basis during the 1980’s and early 1990’s. 

Unfortunately, the relationship turned sour, and we spent most of the 1990’s in acrimony and litigation. 

I brought six successive cases against Shell in the UK High Courts, all settled by Shell. 

Above news article – Shell struck by writ – reports on one of a series of High Court Writs issued by Don Marketing against Shell UK Limited. Caption states: Shell: denies claims it has repeatedly used ideas put to it speculatively, and say: “There is no case against us”

The settlements did not put an end to the mutual ill feeling between the belligerents – the Royal Dutch Shell Group on one side and my late father, Alfred Donovan and myself on the other.

As a result of some ill-judged comments to a third party company by a senior Shell lawyer, a peace treaty was broken, and hostilities kicked off again early in the new century and have continued ever since. 

Shell International brought the last proceedings against my father in 2005, who was 88 at the time. Shell lost that case also. 

Two years later, at the age of 90, eight companies within the Royal Dutch Shell Group were trying to drag him into a Malaysian court case. Shell relented on 6 August 2007. That litigation involved a whistleblower, Shell Production Geologist, Dr. John Huong. He was the first Shell employee to blow the whistle internally on the reserves scandal. After Shell ignored his warnings, he contacted me and we published his story. Shell issued defamation proceedings. The litigation got heated when Shell sought his imprisonment for alleged contempt of court. Dr. Huong found it necessary to use bodyguards. He sued Shell for wrongful dismissal and Shell eventually settled out of court. 


The website has focussed on Shell’s activities for over a decade. It operates on a non-profit basis with no subscription charges.  Access to over 40,000 articles, correspondence, Shell internal documents etc. all relating to Shell is entirely free. Lawyers suing Shell beat a path to my door seeking information and evidence. 

As a result of threatening our server hosting companies in North America, Shell did, on one occasion, briefly manage to have the website shut down.

The One World Trust, an NGO with Special Consultative Status to the UN and a close relationship with the UK Parliament, works to make global governance more accountable. 

It was impressed with how I have been able, using the power of the website, to perform a useful watchdog function holding Shell to account for its activities. 

Here are some brief extracts from the One World Trust July 2007 Newsletter sections referring to

The site has played a watchdog function on the activities of Shell, and has acted as a central point for the gathering of complaints. 

John Donovan’s use of the website to blow the whistle on Shell’s environmental abuses in the Sakhalin project exhibits the power an individual website can have in holding a global organisation to account.  

The site has not only cost Shell billions of dollars in Russia, but Prospect Magazine reports that the Ogoni tribe of Nigeria also use the website to spread information about Shell’s activities in the Niger Delta, and that even Shell insiders unhappy with the company use it.

Many third parties have used the website for various worthwhile reasons, including the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Friends of the Earth and The World Ecumenical Council for Corporate Responsibility.

I have supplied the American and Russian governments with confidential information about Royal Dutch Shell from my insider sources. Contact with the Russian government took place a decade ago before the true nature of the Putin regime emerged.

One approach for my help came from a senior investigative agent at the U.S. Department of the Interior.  I subsequently supplied the DOI with Shell internal documents. They were most grateful.

I am authorized to name and use an endorsement received from Mr. Donald G. Lane, a former U.S. Secret Service Agent and Special Agent-in-Charge of the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security.

“I read an article about you and your father in The Guardian, and I applaud your quest to hold Shell accountable for their actions. It is precisely this type of activity that makes our world a better place, and I am highly impressed with what you and your father have done with your website.” 

I cannot disclose anything more about my contact with Mr. Lane, except to say that it related to Shell.

Global news media organizations also approach me for information about Shell. They have published numerous articles quoting from Shell insider information I have supplied. Almost 40 books contain references to my website. 

I publish news articles about Shell on a daily basis, irrespective of whether the content is positive or negative towards the company. I take the view that overall, the website fairly reflects the controversial nature of Shell’s extractive activities around the world. 

Two prime examples: Shell’s controversial track record in Nigeria and the contentious plans to drill in pristine Arctic waters. (Gallery at end of this introduction includes extracts from Shell Arctic drilling news articles)

The Arctic-drilling came to grief in spectacular fashion in 2012, was resurrected for 2015, before turning into another debacle abandoned at a cost of over $10bn in September 2015.

Shell has attempted to “kill” media articles about my activities. In February 2007, someone at Shell stated an intention in an internal email dated 2 February 2007, to put pressure on The Sunday Times to “kill” an article about my intervention in the Sakhalin 2 project. 

On 27 July 2010, Shell staff discussed in internal emails the possibility of applying pressure to the Financial Times concerning me and my website.

It seems that not much has changed in this regard since the days of Deterding when Shell used similar tactics to suppress unwelcome articles. See page 118 of “SHELL SHOCK: THE SECRETS AND SPIN OF AN OIL GIANT.”


I stumbled across information about Shell’s close connection with the Nazis as a result of Shell internal emails I obtained from Shell lawyers. Shell supplied the emails in response to a “Subject Access Request” (SAR) that I made to Shell under the UK Data Protection Act 1998.

A company is legally obliged to give sight to an applicant of all internal information mentioning the SAR applicant’s name, held in their electronic records. A “SAR” covers all relevant internal documents and communications, including emails. The company is allowed to redact the names of third parties, including employees. 

The emails started in early March 2007, with the last one sent on 6 June 2007.  Naturally I was intrigued when I read them and later purchased for a substantial sum (about $220) the entire four-volume set – “A History of Royal Dutch Shell.” 

One of the March 2007 Shell internal emails was marked as being “Legally Privileged and Confidential.” The first sentence stated: “Also D will be scrutinising the new Shell History (out on 5 July) and doubtless making all sorts of new allegations based on it.” 

The last email, on 6 June 2007, sent under the subject heading: “Online Issue Management – Group Strategy,” anticipated “another broadside from Donovan when our History book comes out…”

I had no idea whatsoever (until I read the Shell history books), about the vast financial support given to Nazis Germany by Shell’s Dutch leadership.

I also learned from other Shell emails circulated in March 2007 that Shell had, not for the first time, made us targets of corporate espionage.  This time involving global electronic surveillance. 

A hostile tone towards us was self-evident in a rather sinister Shell internal email dated 9 March 2007. Shell seems to have assembled a small army to counter my activities and was apparently fearful of losing control of it. The content was heavily redacted. It is worth reading because it shows how seriously Shell reacted to our website activities.  

The email had a large circulation list. One topic for consideration was completely redacted. Was this another reference to “the new Shell History (out on 5 July)?” If so, did it contain a reference to Shell’s Nazi history?

A fresh bout of spying activity instigated by Shell, as reported by Reuters (screenshot below) happened days after the emails expressing concern about me reading the Shell History Books. 

The initial corporate espionage operation against us involving undercover activity was admitted by Shell in 1998 only after being cornered by our solicitors.  

There is evidence suggesting that Shell’s surveillance activity continues to this day.

I never anticipated that my legitimate activities, including reading a set of history books about Shell, would cause such a panicked reaction from one of the largest companies on Earth. Shell was on the back foot and in full battle mode. 

Management was determined to detach me from a high-level Shell whistleblower. Namely, Mr. Bill Campbell, a retired HSE Group Auditor of Shell International, who at the time was still a Shell consultant. 

Shell was a dark and sinister force in the 1930’s, and it remains so. 

I base this assessment on my families’ dealings with Shell in the last two decades. 

Also from other recent events, including Shell’s growing alliance with the reprehensible Putin regime in Russia. 


Royal Dutch Shell has had sight of an earlier comprehensive draft manuscript of this book. 

I have also already published a series of Internet articles on the Shell/Nazis subject, all without legal challenge from Shell.

The initial contact was on 3 November 2010 when I sent an email (in my father’s name) to the then Chief Ethics & Compliance Officer of Royal Dutch Shell Plc. We also sent copies to Mr. Peter Voser, the then Chief Executive of the company, and to Mr. Michiel Brandjes, Company Secretary, and General Counsel Corporate.

The email contained a reference to a related article we published the same day. We invited Shell to correct any inaccurate information. The invitation was not taken up. 

On 25 February 2011, we published on our website (which is monitored by Shell), an article giving Shell notice of my specific intention to publish extract pages from “A History of Royal Dutch Shell.” All were extracts relevant to Shell’s close relationship with Hitler and the Nazi Party.  The article included links to relevant pages from Volumes 1 and 2 that I published online. 

Shell, therefore, had the opportunity in February 2011 to prevent publication of the article and related pages from the published four-volume work. Shell chose not to do so.

However, on 3 March 2011, I received an email from the aforementioned Shell official, Michiel Brandjes. 

He said that Shell strongly disagreed with my views and allegations, objected to my actions and reserved its legal rights, including with respect to copyright.

Mr. Brandjes also stated: “On an exceptional basis we tested your views about history with the relevant historians. They convincingly refute with evidence what you claim in contradiction with A History of Royal Dutch Shell.”

I pointed out that the historians had not provided a single example of any inaccurately stated fact. Instead, the best Mr. Brandjes could come up with was a blanket condemnation of what he described as “your views about history.”

I also pointed out a fatal flaw in the historians’ main defense. They said that all attempts by Shell’s leader, Sir Henri Deterding, to meet with Hitler were rebuffed. On this basis, the whole toxic issue of Shell leadership funding of the Nazis had been downplayed. 

The relevant historians, who describe themselves as the researchers and authors of the work, say that none of them are Shell employees. They claim that what they have written is “the fruit of our independent research” with their progress “monitored by an editorial committee, with an equal number of economic historians and company representatives.”

I have already pointed out the obvious reason their objectivity and impartiality is open to question. They were hired and paid by Shell (and no doubt enjoyed Shell hospitality). 

The key evidence about Deterding’s relationship with Hitler was available. I found it. They did not.

Confidence in the overall integrity of the process is further undermined by my personal knowledge about three out of the four Shell senior executives/officials who served on the editorial committee. 


(1) Sir Phillip Watts was forced to resign in 2004 as Group Chairman of the Royal Dutch Shell Group.  His departure resulted from a gigantic fraud and cover-up involving falsification of Shell’s claimed oil and gas reserves. The headlines of some related newspaper articles can be seen.















Some related colourful illustrations (below) are also displayed.

(2) Jeroen van der Veer became CEO of Royal Dutch Shell Plc following the reserves scandal. He got the top job despite the fact that he had signed false declarations with the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission relating to Shell’s claimed reserves. Furthermore, he had known about the fraud long before the information came into the public domain.  



(3) Jyoti Munsiff is a former Company Secretary of Shell Transport & Trading Company. She was later appointed to be the first Chief Ethics & Compliance Officer of Royal Dutch Shell Plc. Ms. Munsiff once took part in a high-level strategy involving Shell Transport & Trading Chairman, Mark Moody-Stuart and a Shell UK General Counsel, to prevent information embarrassing to Shell from reaching Shell shareholders.  It was part of a cover-up of a cover-up.

All three individuals – Watts, Van der Veer and Munsiff, had “form” in the Shell culture of corporate cover-up and were, therefore, ideal from the standpoint of Shell to exercise editorial influence.

The public and investors are entitled to know about Shell’s Nazi past. Some people, including relatives of poor souls who suffered horrific deaths in the Nazi gas chambers, may wish to boycott Shell shares and Shell products.

Shell has taken indirect action against me over copyright, but never in relation to this subject. Shell’s financial support for Nazi Germany is just about the last subject on earth to which Shell would wish to draw attention.

There were other controversial subjects in the set of Shell history books, which provided information for articles I have already published.

For example, the “roll call of Shell toxic brands deadly to insects, crop pests AND humans.”  

Shell also left an astonishing toxic legacy in Ecuador, Panama and Costa Rica.


I have already pointed out that it would be unrealistic for me to claim to be independent and impartial bearing in mind past news headlines about me.

For example, a major article published by a German broadsheet newspaper, Süddeutsche Zeitung, under the headline: “John Donovan, Shell’s nightmare“.  

Another example, the DW German TV documentary feature: “John Donovan – Shell’s Enemy No.1,“  which was filmed in the UK and Russia.

The screenshot is from an interview in the documentary with Mr. Oleg Mitvol, Former Russian Deputy Environment Minister. He confirmed the importance of information I supplied to him. President Putin also makes an appearance. 

There is a German language version of the same video segment.

The European Journal subsequently broadcast an English-language version across the EU. 

Vox euro published an article in 10 languages – see screenshot immediately below.

I have however spent years carrying out research and gathering evidence so that readers can take it all into account and draw their conclusions.

I am certainly not driven by money.  My website has no subscription or other charges and operates on a non-profit basis and has done so for over a decade. 

As a long-term shareholder in Royal Dutch Shell Plc and its predecessor, Shell Transport & Trading Company Limited, I have a legitimate interest in encouraging Shell senior management to abide by and enforce Shell’s claimed General Business Principles. 


Copyright Notice: All rights, including copyright and compilation in the content of web pages authored by John Donovan are owned or controlled for these purposes by him. In accessing the said web pages, you agree that you may only download the content for your own personal non-commercial use. Except where expressly stated otherwise, you are not permitted to copy, broadcast, download, store (in any medium), transmit, show or play in public, adapt or change in any way the content of these web pages for any other purpose whatsoever without the prior written permission of John Donovan via the email address: and its sister non-profit websites,,,,,, and are owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia feature.
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