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Notice

Proposed Collection; Comment Request

 

Upon written request, copies available from: Securities and Exchange Commission, Office of Filings and Information Services, Washington, DC 20549.

Extension: Rule 32a-4, SEC File No. 270-473, OMB Control No. 3235-0530.

Notice is hereby given that, pursuant to the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 U.S.C. 350l et seq.), the Securities and Exchange Commission (“Commission”) is soliciting comments on the collections of information summarized below. The Commission plans to submit these existing collections of information to the Office of Management and Budget (“OMB”) for extension and approval.

Section 32(a)(2) of the Investment Company Act requires that shareholders of a registered investment management or face-amount certificate company (“fund”) ratify or reject the selection of a fund's independent public accountant. Rule 32a-4 exempts a fund from this requirement if: (i) the fund's board of directors establishes an audit committee composed solely of independent directors with responsibility for overseeing the fund's accounting and auditing processes, [1] (ii) the fund's board of directors adopts an audit committee charter setting forth the committee's structure, duties, powers and methods of operation, or sets out similar provisions in the fund's charter or bylaws, [2] and (iii) the fund maintains a copy of such an audit committee charter permanently in an easily accessible place. [3]

Each fund that chooses to rely on rule 32a-4 incurs two collection of information burdens. The first, related to the board of directors' adoption of the audit committee charter, occurs once, when the committee is established. The second, related to the fund's maintenance and preservation of a copy of the charter in an easily accessible place, is an ongoing annual burden. The information collection requirement in rule 32a-4 enables the Commission to monitor the duties and responsibilities of an independent audit committee formed by a fund relying on the rule.

Commission staff estimates that, on average, the board of directors takes 15 minutes to adopt the audit committee charter. Commission staff has estimated that with an average of 8 directors on the board, [4] total director time to adopt the charter is 2 hours. Combined with an estimated 1 hour of paralegal time to prepare the charter for board review, the staff estimates a total one-time collection of information burden of 3 hours for each fund. Once a board adopts an audit committee charter, a fund generally maintains it in a file cabinet or as a computer file. Commission staff has estimated that there is no annual hourly burden associated with maintaining the charter in this form. [5]

Because virtually all funds extant have now adopted audit committee charters, the annual one-time collection of information burden associated with adopting audit committee charters in the future will be limited to the burden incurred by newly established funds. Commission staff estimates that fund sponsors establish approximately 400 new funds each year, [6] and that all of these funds will adopt an audit committee charter in order to rely on rule 32a-4. Thus, Commission staff estimates that the annual one-time hour burden associated with adopting an audit committee charter under rule 32a-4 going forward will be approximately 1200 hours. [7]

As noted above, all funds that rely on rule 32a-4 are subject to the ongoing collection of information requirement to preserve a copy of the charter in an easily accessible place. This ongoing requirement, which Commission staff has estimated has no hourly burden, applies to the 400 new funds that adopt an audit committee charter each year and the 8044 funds that have previously adopted the charter and continue to maintain it.

When funds adopt an audit committee charter in order to rely on rule 32a-4, they also may incur one-time costs related to hiring outside counsel to prepare the charter. Commission staff estimates that those costs average approximately $1000 per fund. [8] Commission staff understands that virtually all funds now rely on rule 32a-4 and have adopted audit committee charters, and thus estimates that the annual cost burden related to hiring outside legal counsel will, in the future, be limited to newly established funds.

As noted above, Commission staff estimates that approximately 400 new funds each year will adopt an audit committee charter in order to rely on rule 32a-4, and that an additional 8044 funds will continue to preserve their audit committee charters in order to rely on rule 32a-4. Thus, Commission staff estimates that the ongoing annual cost burden associated with rule 32a-4 in the future will be approximately $400,000. [9]

The estimates of average burden hours and costs are made solely for the purposes of the Paperwork Reduction Act, and are not derived from a comprehensive or even a representative survey or study of the costs of Commission rules and forms. [10]

The collections of information required by rule 32a-4 are necessary to obtain the benefits of the rule. The Commission is seeking OMB approval, because an agency may not conduct or sponsor, and a person is not required to respond to, a collection of information unless it displays a currently valid control number.

Written comments are invited on: (a) Whether the collection of information is necessary for the proper performance of the functions of the Commission, including whether the information has practical utility; (b) the accuracy of the Commission's estimate of the burden of the collection of information; (c) ways to enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information collected; and (d) ways to minimize the burden of the collection of information on respondents, including through the use of automated collection techniques or other forms of information technology. Consideration will be given to comments and suggestions submitted in writing within 60 days of this publication.

Please direct your written comments to R. Corey Booth, Director/Chief Information Officer, Office of Information Technology, Securities and Exchange Commission, 100 F Street, NE., Washington, DC 20549.

Dated: August 5, 2005

Margaret H. McFarland,

Deputy Secretary.

[FR Doc. E5-4378 Filed 8-11-05; 8:45 am]

BILLING CODE 8010-01-P

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1. Rule 32a-4(a).

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2. Rule 32a-4(b).

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3. Rule 32a-4(c).

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4. See Management Practice Inc. Bulletin: Fund directors pay increases 17% in smaller complexes, 8% in larger (2003) available at http://www.mfgovern.com.

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5. No hour burden related to such maintenance of the charter was identified by the funds the Commission staff surveyed. Commission staff understands that many audit committee charters have been significantly revised after their adoption in response to the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (Pub. Law 107-204, 116 Stat. 745) and other developments. However, the costs associated with these revisions are not attributable to the requirements of rule 32a-4.

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6. See Investment Company Institute (“ICI”), Mutual Fund Factbook (2005) (“ICI 2005 Factbook”), at 9. The total number of funds in the marketplace has remained approximately the same each year for the past three years. Although there has been some variation in the number of funds that are newly established and funds that has ceased operations each year, Commission staff has estimated that the total number of respondents will remain constant. Id at 9.

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7. This estimate is based on the following calculation: (3.0 burden hours for establishing charter × 400 new funds = 1200 burden hours).

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8. Costs may vary based on the individual needs of each fund. However, based on the staff's conversations with outside counsel that prepare these charters, legal fees related to the preparation and adoption of an audit committee charter usually average $1000 or less. The Commission also understands that the ICI has prepared a model audit committee charter, which most legal professionals use when establishing audit committees, thereby reducing the costs associated with drafting a charter.

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9. This estimate is based on the following calculations: ($1000 cost of adopting charter × 400 newly established funds = $400,000).

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10. These estimates are based on telephone interviews between Commission staff and fund representatives.

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