Exclusive: Shell legal boss Rees in shock departure

Shell legal director Peter Rees QC has left the oil giant, just three years after joining the company.

Peter Rees

The abrupt move is understood to have surprised the legal team, which was informed on Friday (10 January 2013) in an email announcement from chief executive Ben Van Beurden. Rees’s tenure has ceased with immediate effect.

Acknowledging the move, Shell spokesperson said: “Shell can confirm that Peter Rees is stepping down as legal director of the company with effect from 10 January 2014 to pursue other interests.

”Peter has agreed to remain at Shell until 11 February 2014 in order to assist with the transition of his responsibilities.

”Shell thanks Peter for his service to the company and wishes him every success in the future.”

Rees joined Shell as global legal director in January 2011 (11 October 2010). During his tenure, he reorganised reporting lines globally and reclaimed control from external counsel by bringing litigation in-house. In an interview with The Lawyer last year, he said: “If you look at most corporations these days, litigation and compliance is the biggest risk.” (4 November 2013).

After joining the FTSE100 company Rees restructured the legal function before launching another panel revamp with the help of associate general counsel Kim Phillips in January (11 January 2013).

The new-look panel, revealed in May, included Baker & McKenzie , CMS Cameron McKenna and, Rees’ previous employer, Debevoise & Plimpton, among more than 150 firms appointed to give greater cross-jurisdictional coverage and foster a sense of competition between panel firms (23 May 2013 ).

In September last year the UK team underwent a reshuffle when Michael Coates was appointed UK legal head (9 September 2013 ).

Rees’ predecessor Beat Hess had cut the company’s panel to just five principal advisers, including Cravath Swaine & Moore, Simmons & ­Simmons and Slaughter and May (26 April 2010 ).

In the last five years Shell has reduced external legal spend globally by 61 per cent from $330m to $128m.