U.K. Official Admits to Meeting with Porton CEO

U.K. Defense Secretary Liam Fox admitted to The Guardian that he met with Porton Capital CEO Harvey Boulter before Boulter allegedly tried to extort $30 million from 3M Company to settle a pending lawsuit.

Liam Fox, U.K. defense secretary, has admitted to U.K. newspaper The Guardian that he met with Harvey Boulter-CEO of Porton Capital-prior to Boulter allegedly trying to extort $30 million from 3M Company.

Porton Capital is in the midst of a legal battle with Maplewood-based 3M over Baclite, a product that 3M acquired in 2007 and took off the market in 2008.

Porton Capital and Ploughshare Innovations, Ltd., an entity controlled by the British Ministry of Defense, sued 3M in 2008, alleging that 3M “botched” a clinical trial for BacLite and contending that 3M was irresponsible in its decision to take the product off the market.

3M has maintained that the product was not commercially viable. Donna Fleming Runyon, a 3M spokeswoman, told Twin Cities Business in May that the company purchased the product “with the expectation that it was fully developed and ready to market, but it wasn't.”

Then, in June,3M fired back with a lawsuit of its own, claiming Boulter sent e-mails to 3M's legal counsel that allegedly threatened the company's business interests in the United Kingdom and its CEO, George Buckley (and his recent knighthood), and demanded that 3M pay $30 million to settle the BacLite suit.

A few days after 3M filed its suit, lawyers for Boulter and Porton Capital said in a news release that 3M's allegations were a “false and reckless . . . publicity stunt disguised as a lawsuit.”

In its suit, 3M cites e-mails in which Boulter mentions meetings with Fox. According to The Guardian, Fox previously denied that he discussed matters regarding the BacLite trial with Boulter, but recently admitted that “he was informed of a plan by Harvey Boulter . . . to resolve a dispute alleging that 3M failed to 'diligently' commercialize” BacLite.

The Guardian reported that Boulter sent an e-mail to 3M's legal counsel just hours after meeting with Fox at the five-star Shangri-La hotel in Dubai. Boulter allegedly sent a follow-up e-mail the next day saying that Fox was waiting for a response from 3M.

“If Mr. Boulter and Dr. Fox did, in fact, discuss this case during their meeting, we would like to know if Dr. Fox was aware of the demands that Mr. Boulter placed upon 3M-and whether Dr. Fox was waiting for a response to those demands on Sunday, as Mr. Boulter suggested,” William Brewer, a partner at Bickel & Brewer and 3M's lead counsel, told The Guardian.

Click here to read more about the case in The Guardian.