John Clay, assistant editor of the Energy Litigation Committee newsletter, recently interviewed Earl D. Weed, associate counsel for international litigation at Shell Oil Co., regarding some of the international issues that outside counsel should consider when representing an energy company with multinational operations in a U.S. proceeding.
Clay: Mr. Weed, as Shell’s associate counsel for international litigation, I know your work must involve many cross-border litigation issues. How did you come to specialize in this area?
Weed: Before coming to Shell, I worked for Cooper Industries from 1984 to 1999 and was eventually named associate general counsel for litigation. I did not have a great deal of involvement in international litigation during this time period, but I managed some of the outside counsel who were involved in disputes in the UK, Venezuela, and Brazil.
When I moved to Shell in 2001, I started out managing its asbestos docket. Then, around the beginning of 2004, Shell disclosed it had overstated some of its oil and gas reserves. The SEC, the FSA (Financial Services Authority) in the UK, and the AFM (Authority for the Financial Markets) in the Netherlands initiated investigations related to this, and several class-action lawsuits were filed in the United States.
Since many of the documents and people involved were located overseas, Shell decided to send a U.S.-based in-house litigation counsel to provide assistance abroad. I was the person designated for this in-house role, so I spent about a year and a half working overseas in connection with these proceedings.
In the process, I started to encounter some of the emerging issues that we now know are significant hurdles when approaching discovery in international energy litigation. Data privacy, for example, had not been as big a litigation issue in the minds of most people up until that point, but we had to work through some of the data-privacy issues that flow from EU regulations because we had to respond to investigatory requests from the SEC and to discovery demands in the private class-action litigation. So that is how I got started managing international litigation in the energy industry. I became involved in other cases with an international component as time went on.