in

A quartet of FTSE100 chairmen is being sued in the United States in the multi-billion court cases stemming from the crisis at Royal Dutch/Shell over the overstatement of its oil reserves. Companies involved include Rio Tinto and Lloyds TSB.

Sir Mark Moody-Stuart, of the mining giant Anglo American, Paul Skinner, of its rival Rio Tinto, Maarten van den Bergh, of Lloyds TSB, and Jeroen van der Veer, the new chairman of Shell’s committee of managing directors, are named in class action suits filed against Shell and present and past executives. Moody-Stuart, Skinner and van den Bergh all took their current posts after careers at the oil giant.

“The fall-out from the Shell debacle is hurting lots of companies,” said one of the UK’s most respected businessmen. “It’s the most extraordinary story of my 40 year career.”

Investors who bought into Royal Dutch/Shell between December 3 1999 and January 9 2004 – the period covered by the class actions – have until this Friday to file motions to appoint a lead plaintiff to head the cases.

The suits were filed after Shell stunned the financial world in January by admitting it had overbooked its proven reserves by 25 per cent. Shares in Shell Transport & Trading and Royal Dutch have fallen by around 10 per cent since January 9, wiping £9bn off their market value. US lawyers say that the damages claims will run to billions of dollars.

The class action suits allege that the four chairmen are among a number of Shell executives who deliberately violated accounting rules and guidelines relating to oil and gas reserves which resulted in the overstatement of reserves. The Telegraph contacted all four and their companies for a response to the allegations. However, they all declined to comment.

Peter Seidman – an attorney at Milberg Weiss Bershad Hynes & Lerach, the law firm that filed the first class action suit against Shell in January – said that in the light of Shell’s announcement on Thursday of a second reduction in its reserves it was “inevitable that the dates of the class period will be amended to cover that period”.

British MP George Galloway and his opponent the Daily Telegraph will leave no stone unturned to sort out what could be a spectacular libel case.

One of the authors claiming Dan Brown’s bestseller The Da Vinci Code copied his ideas has admitted he exaggerated his case in an interview with a journalist.