Bildt angry over porn shares claims

Foreign minister Carl Bildt owns shares and options worth almost 10 million kronor with the American asset management company Legg Mason, which according to Göteborgs-Posten has placed money in weapons, tobacco and pornography.

Bildt, a former Legg Mason board member, has reacted angrily to details published yesterday in the Gothenburg newspaper.

According to the report, Legg Mason’s American Leading Companies fund has invested in weapons manufacturer Lockheed Martin, and in Altria, which owns tobacco giant Phillip Morris.

A subsidiary of Legg Mason, Royce & Associates, has put money into New Frontier Media, which Göteborgs-Posten refers to as a major player in the American pornography industry, with a focus on pay-per-view television and film production.

Carl Bildt has responded by saying that Göteborgs-Posten’s attempt to link his economic interests to weapons and pornography is “irresponsible and unreasonable.”

In an e-mail to the newspaper, Bildt pointed out that Legg Mason administers savings to the value of 7,000 billion kronor in various companies and funds, making it one of America’s largest asset management companies.

Referring to the newspaper’s report as “slanderous”, the minister reacted particularly strongly to what he sees as the insinuation that Legg Mason has built its wealth on weapons and pornography.

“I do not believe that anybody with even an ounce of credibility or an ounce of knowledge about this business would come anywhere close to saying such a thing,” wrote Bildt.

Göteborgs-Posten replied by reiterating a series of questions surrounding the foreign minister’s shareholdings. The possibility of a link between Bildt’s holdings in Lundin Petroleum and the government’s silence on Darfur formed the basis of six questions.

The newspaper then returned to Legg Mason for its seventh and final question.

“Is it appropriate that Sweden’s foreign minister has economic interests in a capital management company that has invested in weapons, pornography and tobacco?” the newspaper asked.