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Our leaflets did sometimes go over the top with personal attacks on Sir Mark Moody-Stuart (now elevated to a knighthood). This probably happened because it was often difficult to assess whether the leaflets were making an impression. When apparently no impact is being made on the opponent, one is inclined to ratchet up the pressure. Eventually, just a few weeks before the trial, I received a moving handwritten letter from Lady Judy Moody-Stuart, the Quaker wife of the esteemed Shell leader. This is what she said.

Thursday 29th April 1999

Dear Mr Donovan

I have just read the pink leaflet that is being offered outside Shell Centre by your people – I usually have a chat with them as they stand around in the wind!

I have been married to Mark Moody Stuart for 35 years and love him dearly.   I find what you choose to say about his character and the way he does his job offensive and upsetting; I would not stand around in Bury handing out rude remarks about your wife.  He is bearing huge responsibility and works so hard and committedly for the shareholders and the employees as anyone could.   He will not get any better as a result of your rude remarks – you might as well save your ink and money because it makes you sound obsessed.  I wonder whether you would be better to try and forgive him for your perceived aggravation?

With your energy and resources you could make a real difference at Centrepoint, which is a charity set up to provide a centre and hostels for young people who are jobless on the streets of London having left home without proper preparation or money or anywhere to go.  They need volunteer mentors to keep in touch (chat regularly) with individuals in the hostels, and help them get organised and find a way into society that is acceptable. They also need fund-raising for buildings and the salaries of the few permanent staff that run the organisation.

This is not a publicity stunt from me – and I dare say that my husband would not approve of my writing to you – but I’ve had enough of reading your miserable destructive comments about a great group of people, Shell people, and their organisation.

It might cheer you up to help struggling young people at Centrepoint – and would be more interesting for the two friends who hand out your leaflets.  I know a bit about several other charities that could use your energy and commitment, as you do, surely.    Anyhow, it would be better for the world: there is more than enough destruction and unhappiness without someone adding gratuitously to it.  Which human can really judge another?  I resist the temptation to go on further… good luck in coming to terms with the world.  I would agree that it is not easy.

Judy Moody Stuart

I sent the following self-explanatory response: -

12th May 1999

Dear Mrs Moody-Stuart

Thank you for your letter dated 29th April 1999, which I received on Thursday 6th May, via the business centre address.   I apologise for the delay in responding but what you have said was important and has given cause to re-examine our situation. I only wish that someone at Shell had been prepared to make contact with us on a human level in the way you have. A lot of grief might have been avoided.

I fully understand your decision to defend your husband and sincerely hope that you in turn will try to understand why I have supported my only son, John, in regard to his disputes with Shell.  I have the same high regard and love for him as you have for your husband of 35 years.

My son has spoken to Teresa and Paul, the friends distributing the leaflets. He told them about your letter. They immediately recollected the chats they have had with you and said that they had noticed your name on an identity badge you were wearing. Both commented on your kindness. They had not mentioned this to us.

I accept what you say about your husband’s commitment to Shell’s shareholders and employees. I appreciate that he does have a huge responsibility on his shoulders.  Like you, I am sure that Shell has a wealth of good people.  We have met many of them over the years, starting with Mr John Withers in 1958, when I first commenced a trading relationship with Shell.   I would simply say that because of the vast number of Shell employees, it is inevitable that it has a few bad apples, just as any great company would have.

Ideally there should be a procedure for dealing with any allegations of unethical conduct made against a Shell employee.  It should be fair to the complainant and the employee.  As you know, Shell has a Statement of General Business Principles which lays down a code of practice with which Shell employees are supposed to comply at all times. Unfortunately Shell does not have any formal procedure for handling complaints about alleged breaches or any form of independent monitoring or appeal mechanism.  Unlike some other multinationals there is no arbitration or mediation facility available.

The upshot is that if a complainant cannot resolve a matter by referral to a dispute procedure, they are forced to give up or sue a multinational giant, which no normal person would attempt to do.  I am afraid that there are some people at Shell UK who definitely take advantage of this fact. You probably have to be obsessive to do what we have done.  Please bear in mind that all of our strenuous efforts to try to resolve the claim by arbitration or mediation were ignored.

Litigation is by its very nature highly adversarial. The Plaintiff says that its case is unimpeachable.  The Defendant says the claim being made against it is totally without merit.  One side rarely gives any credit to actions or claims made by their opponent because any such concession might be used against them. This is the way the game is played. It is not an exercise for the fainthearted.

I decided to mount a campaign to try to attract the attention of Shell senior management to what I felt and still feel is totally unfair.  This appears to have led in turn to the sinister events described in my leaflets.  As you may be aware, Shell UK has admitted its connection with an undercover investigator, who engaged in deception when he visited our business centre office.  I hasten to add that I know your husband had no knowledge of this until after the event.

Unfortunately the impression that you appear to have about our circumstances and resources is very wide of the mark. Please let me explain our situation.  We are a month away from a landmark High Court Trial.  As a consequence, my family and I are under the most enormous pressure. I am 82 and have been married for 56 years to my wife, Beryl, who is 78 and suffers from Alzheimer’s disease.   We live on state pensions and my war disability pension.  We sold our house last year to pay legal fees involved in respect of the Shell litigation.  We live with my son at Maplebank.  He is giving a charge over the property to go someway to paying his lawyers. Therefore if the case is lost my family and I, including our elderly Labrador dog, Max, will all be homeless.  Last Thursday my wife had to see Dr Darley, her consultant at West Suffolk hospital, for him to determine whether she is mentally competent to agree to the charge. Shell is bringing a Counterclaim for £100,000 against my son and I, relating in part to the leaflets.  These have all been momentous developments.  As you can imagine, the final years of the lives of my wife and I have been blighted by these events but we have to support our son because we believe in him.

I know that your letter is heartfelt and genuine and I have attempted to respond in the same spirit.   As far as forgiveness is concerned I suspect that if I live long enough to be able to step back and consider my campaigning activities from a more detached perspective, any apologies are likely to be a matter for me, not your husband. Although I felt aggrieved at his decision not to intervene, I am sure he did what he believed to be correct and proper.  I am concerned that I may have chastised him unfairly if, as I now suspect must be the case, he had not been made aware of certain highly material facts by Shell UK’s lawyers, who seem bent on destroying us.

Shell has threatened injunctions from time to time and I had decided that I would go to jail rather than abandon the campaigning.  My grandchildren have promised to provide funds so that I could continue with the campaign.  In my own defence, I would just say that the negative comments and allegations were not all one sided.  Shell UK has issued a number of press statements to the media over the years containing some very unkind and unfounded allegations about us.  However, what you have said has raised sufficient doubt in my mind that I cannot in good conscience continue with the current leafleting campaign.   I ended it last Friday. I will reconsider matters in the light of the outcome of the Trial and I promise you that if I do start a new leafleting campaign I will ensure that it takes a less personal form.  I will also arrange for the websites to be suspended within the next few days, pending the conclusion of the Trial.

I suspect that you have concluded that I am a crackpot or worse and probably would have said as much if your charitable nature had not restrained you towards the end of your letter.  If I did not know the facts as I do, I would have thought it preposterous that a Shell UK manager would deliberately deceive and cheat companies pitching for Shell business.   That is the basic issue, which has been at the heart of all of our disputes with Shell.  I would not be over concerned about your husband being annoyed by your actions.   Your initiative and words have achieved a result that has eluded Shell and its army of lawyers.

My son met on Friday with Mr Malcolm Brinded the new Country Chairman of Shell UK and he is writing to him in relation to the pending Trial.  I have asked him to seek consent from Mr Brinded to let you and your husband have sight of certain evidence.  You would then be able to draw your own conclusions about the basic issue that I have described.  It is information that Shell UK’s legal department has had in its possession all through the successive litigation but has only recently revealed to us. It is important to my peace of mind that you are able to see that information.  It might mitigate to some degree your feelings about my actions.

The frustration vented in the leaflets has been caused by our inability to get anyone in a senior position at Shell to deal with us as human beings, as Sir John Jennings did in respect of the earlier claims.  Sir John treated us fairly and with great kindness.  We made more progress in our brief discussions with him than in all of the previous two years spent fighting Shell UK.  The eventual consequence of his intervention was a victory for integrity and for Shell.

With regard to your suggestion that we should get involved in a worthwhile charity, such as Centrepoint, I believe that my son would be ideally suited not only because of his energy and commitment, but because he is extremely kind, patient, and considerate.   If circumstances permit, I am sure he will seek further information.

Yours sincerely

Alfred Donovan


I received a handwritten note from Lady Judy Moody-Stuart responding to the above letter. It said: “Thank you for your letter which arrived safely last week.  It was good to hear, and I appreciate your reply. With good wishes…”  

Lady Judy Moody-Stuart supports many worthy causes – for example, she is a director of “The Big Issue”, an innovative organisation which helps the unemployed. Last year she gave a revealing speech on the subject of “the need to examine our consciences and the importance of listening to the echo inside ourselves”. I deliberately use the word “revealing” because I believe there must be serious reservations in her mind about being able to reconcile her undoubted good works with being married to a multi-millionaire industrialist and banker, who until recently, was the Group Chairman of arguably the richest and most powerful multi-national goliath on the planet.  

I wonder how Lady Moody-Stuart felt when her husband, Sir Mark Moody-Stuart, had to make thousands of Shell employees redundant or when he was under attack in respect of Shell’s alleged wrongdoing in Nigeria. He remains a director of HSBC Holdings – the world’s largest bank group. He has also served as Co-Chairman of the G8 Energy Task Force and is a member of the UN Secretary Generals Advisory Council for the Global Compact. Sir Mark is now Chairman of Anglo American plc which is one of the world’s largest mining and natural resources group – a global leader in gold, diamonds, coal, industrial minerals and forest products. In short, Sir Mark Moody-Stuart is one of the worlds leading capitalists – one of the most successful “fat cats” around. Whether or not Lady Moody-Stuart has to wrestle with her conscience (while pondering about her husbands prospects of entering the kingdom of God), I have no doubt that she is an exceptionally kind and thoroughly decent person. If there were more people like her the world would be a much better place. However, her husband’s global activities must generate some interesting echoes inside her own mind. An eternal conflict I would imagine.

"It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God."

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