Don't Trust the Dutch

Friday brought news that Royal Dutch (NYSE: RD  ) was restating its financials going back to 1996 because about 20% of its proven reserves were not actually proven. Immediately, this disclosure threw into turmoil not only Royal Dutch's sister company Shell Transport (NYSE: SC  ) , which dropped 7%, but industry players across the board.

Other oil companies involved in the Nigerian and Australian oil field projects in question -- ChevronTexaco (NYSE: CVX  ) and ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM  ) -- dropped as well. Most likely on the assumption that, if Royal Dutch got it wrong, the other operators may not be far behind.

I have another take on this fiasco. Given recent events, you may safely ignore any company that has received "Royal" status from the first family of the Netherlands. Yep, I said it. Don't trust the Dutch.

After all, we are only just now coming to terms with the frauds committed at Royal Ahold (NYSE: AHO  ) . Then there's the billions in shareholder equity vaporized by Dutch telecommunications carrier Koninklijke (Royal) KPN (NYSE: KPN  ) by overbidding on 3G cellular licenses. Not to mention, KPNQwest, a doomed co-venture with Qwest (NYSE: Q  ) . The right to call yourself "Royal," when the honor has given by the Dutch monarch, seems to be the kiss of death for shareholder equity.

By this logic, one should rightly stay far away from Koninklijke Philips Electronics (NYSE: PHG  ) , better known as Philips, KLM (NYSE: KLM  ) , and Royal Nedlloyd (OTC: RNLGY). Of course, this is horrible logic upon which to make an investing decision -- as horrible as choosing to invest in companies because hemlines are rising or because one conference or another won the Super Bowl in football.

It is a fantastic coincidence, though. Of the five Dutch companies trading in the U.S. with honors given by the monarchy, two have recently been involved in scandal, and a third came awfully close to bankruptcy. There are countries in the world which offer regulatory oversight and legal framework insufficient to offer any sense of protection at all to minority investors. The Netherlands is nowhere near this list.

This article comes with a free bowl of soup. Bill Mann owns none of the companies mentioned.


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