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Legg Mason US Smaller Companies - Rating suspended

Whitney George has resigned from Royce Associates (US-based sub managers of the Legg Mason US Smaller Companies fund), where he has worked since 1991. He had been the named co-manager of this fund alongside Lauren Romeo, who will now take on sole portfolio managerial responsibility. Legg Mason cite poor performance of some of George’s mandates, specifically from gold-related investments. He leaves to join a rival Canada-based asset manager, Sprott Asset Manager.

Since we have followed this particular fund there have been several manager changes. Firm founder Chuck Royce and Whitney George were the original co-managers, when we first rated this in 2004. In May 2007, Chuck stepped back leaving George with Lauren Romeo as his new deputy manager. In Mid 2011 the seniority of the two managers reversed with Romeo taking the lead position.

Though George was officially downplayed to a #2 role in 2011, for some time before this our calls & meetings on the fund have been with Lauren Romeo. She shows remarkable insight and detail on her holdings, eclipsing George’s role materially. We have maintained our positive rating on this fund over the years regardless of these managerial changes.

However, much of Royce’s USP had been the low staff turnover (George has been at the firm since 1991) and the significant experience of the two co-CIOs (Chuck Royce with 51 years’ experience & Whitney George with 33 years). A departure of someone of this seniority within the firm warrants further investigation.

We will suspend the rating of this fund until we have reviewed the effect of this manager move.

The value of investments, and the income derived from them, can go down as well as up and you can get back less than you originally invested. Different funds carry varying levels of risk depending on the geographical region and industry sector in which they invest. You should make yourself aware of these specific risks prior to investing. Smaller companies shares can be more volatile and less liquid than larger company shares, so smaller companies funds can carry more risk Current or past yield figures provided should not be considered a reliable indicator of future performance. This article is not a personal recommendation or advice to invest.