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Last Updated: Tuesday, 26 August, 2003, 14:59 GMT 15:59 UK
UK broker launches 'vice' fund
pound coins
Root of all evil: Ethically unsound firms make a lot of money
Brokerage firm Willis Owen has unveiled plans to launch a 'vice' fund dedicated to putting money in companies shunned by ethical investment campaigners.

It will focus in particular on "high dependency" stocks - shares in firms such as betting shops, and alcohol and tobacco manufacturers - which hold up well during recessions, and prosper during boom times.

Willis Owen said backing such companies can yield good returns for individuals whose consciences are not troubled by their investment decisions.

"It may not be politically correct, but we all know that sex, drugs and rock-and-roll sells," said Willis Owen managing director Richard Craven.

The vice fund, which Willis Owen aims to have up and running within the next few weeks, is based on a similar venture in the US which has generated twice the returns of the broad S&P 500 share index since being launched last year.


The fund is also partly inspired by so-called leisure funds - investment vehicles specialising in casinos, alcohol and tobacco which were popular in the 1980s before falling out of fashion amid growing concerns over health and the environment.

It will be the UK's first 'socially irresponsible' investment fund, the polar opposite of initiatives aimed at promoting ethical investment such as the much-hyped FTSE4Good share index.

Mr Craven told BBC Radio Five Live that while many existing funds already include tobacco and alcohol firms in their investment portfolios, Willis Owen's vice fund will be the first to do so explicitly.

"What we're trying to do is to cut through the marketing gloss in the retail investment sector," he said.

However, Willis Owen stressed that companies with a track record of environmental pollution, or which rely on cheap labour, would remain off limits.

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