Shell doubles up on advisers for class action

Oil giant Shell has drafted in a second law firm to help fight off a huge class action brought against it by swathes of investors.

New Jersey-based Robertson Freilich Bruno & Cohen will act alongside New York’s Debevoise & Plimpton in the heavyweight litigation over Shell’s misreporting of its oil and gas reserves from 1998 to 2003.

Shell counsel Jeffrey Cohen, a founding member of Robertson Freilich, is a seasoned class action litigator with experience in the US’s original asbestos cases and a well-known advocate at the New Jersey Federal Court, where the class action will take place.

The ambit of the claim against Shell is likely to be extended today (13 September) when Stanley Bernstein, senior partner of Bernstein Liebhard & Lifshitz, who is acting as the claimants’ lead counsel in the lawsuit, files an amended complaint against the oil company.

Bernstein is likely to add further names to the already extensive list of individuals and companies being sued, which may include Shell’s external auditors KPMG and PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Cohen will act alongside Debevoise litigation partner and managing partner of its Washington office Ralph Ferrara at the trial. A trial date is yet to be set.

The lawyers will advise the Royal Dutch Petroleum Company and Shell Transport & Trading Company – Shell’s main trading entities – as well as six existing and former Shell senior executives.

According to reports, two of Shell’s former senior executives have chosen to use separate counsel. Sir Philip Watt, Shell’s former chairman who resigned after he announced that Shell had overbooked its oil and gas reserves by 25 per cent, has instructed ex-SEC enforcement officer Richard Morvillo, now chair of the securities regulation and enforcement group at Washington’s Crowell & Moring.
Judith Boynton, Shell’s former finance director, has instructed Washington-based Foley & Lardner. Managing partner of the Milwaukee office Nancy Sennett and partner Samuel Winer will handle the case.