Royal Dutch/Shell is a multinational behemoth. Every four seconds of every day, 1,200 cars fill their tanks with petrol on Shell forecourts, while at airports around the world civil airliners are refuelled with Shell aviation spirit every ten seconds. The company has long been regarded as a world leader and a model for other corporations. That is, until January 2004. In a truly dramatic statement, the company told an incredulous world that estimates of Shell's reserves had been inflated by a staggering 3.9 billion barrels. It was the first of a series of admissions that brought into question Shell's reputation for rectitude and sent its share price tumbling. Shell Shock is an engrossing account which reveals details that have never been included in any company accounts. Prominent amongst these is the confirmation that one of the corporation's two 'founding fathers', Henri Deterding, was a passionate supporter of fascist dictators such as Gomez in Venezuela, Franco in Spain, Mussolini in Italy and Hitler in Germany.
Shell Shock then exposes the company's appalling environmental record, notably in Nigeria and the United States, and reveals the possible ecological consequences of current plans to extract oil from Sakhalin Island, off Russia's Pacific coast. As the company - threatened with multi-billion-dollar legal action in America and West Africa - struggles to recover from what amounts to self-immolation, this timely account of its history shows how an internal cultural revolution and an obsession with spin besmirched the company's good name, the quality that mattered most to Shell's founders.
Ian Cummins is a veteran journalist who has written for the Sunday Telegraph, The Observer and the Financial Times. He also previously worked for Petroleum Development Oman, the state-owned company founded and operated by Shell. John Beasant has been press secretary to two prime ministers, an Islamic head of state and a prince. His other books include Stalin's Silver, Oman and (as co-author) Sultan in Arabia.