The Texas Supreme Court recently agreed to hear Shell Oil Co.’s pending defamation case. Robert Writt, a former Shell employee, sued the company for defamation after Shell submitted a report to the Department of Justice about his alleged involvement in committing numerous violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practice Act (FCPA).
It’s an interesting case — can internal investigation reports really be considered defamation? It’s just one question the court will have to consider as it makes its decision. It will depend largely on the truth of some of the allegations included in the DOJ report.
What appears to be indisputable is that Shell’s overseas contractors were suspected of FCPA violations. In 2007, the Department of Justice confronted Shell about its work in Nigeria, and at the time, investigators suspected that there may have been bribery of foreign officials that would allow Shell to get better access to various goods and services. Shell then agreed to voluntarily conduct an internal investigation of its corporation.
A year and a half later, when Shell submitted its investigation report to the DOJ, it had also prepared a clear plan for the prevention of future violations through discipline of certain staff. Writt was implicated in the report as being part of these FCPA violations, which means that Shell accused Writt of a crime.
Writt denies these claims, saying he did not commit any violations and actually reported the bribes to his superiors within the company. He filed the lawsuit against shell alleging defamation and wrongful termination. The trial court sided in favor of Shell, and then the appeals process began. Now, the Texas Supreme Court has the opportunity to hear the case. The decision will definitely be of interest to other companies looking to fire employees after alleged FCPA violations.
If you believe you have been wrongfully terminated after reporting wrongdoing within your company, speak to a Dallas whistleblower attorney from Whistleblower Law for Managers to obtain representation.