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Request for Public Comment

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Upon Written Request, Copies Available From: Securities and Exchange Commission, Office of Filings and Information Services, Washington, DC 20549


Rule 12b-1, SEC File No. 270-188, OMB Control No. 3235-0212

Notice is hereby given that under the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 [44 U.S.C. 3501], the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “Commission”) is soliciting public comments on the collections of information summarized below. The Commission plans to submit this existing collection of information to the Office of Management and Budget (“OMB”).

Rule 12b-1 [17 CFR 270.12b-1] under the Investment Company Act of 1940 [15 U.S.C. 80a] (the “Act”) permits a registered open-end investment company (“mutual fund”) to distribute its own shares and pay expenses of distribution provided, among other things, that the mutual fund adopts a written plan (“rule 12b-1 plan”) and has in writing any agreements relating to the implementation of the rule 12b-1 plan. The rule in part requires that (i) the adoption or material amendment of a rule 12b-1 plan be approved by the mutual fund's directors and shareholders; (ii) the board review quarterly reports of amounts spent under the rule 12b-1 plan; and (iii) the board considers continuation of the rule 12b-1 plan at least annually. Rule 12b-1 also requires funds relying on the rule to preserve for six years, the first two years in an easily accessible place, copies of the rule 12b-1 plan, related agreements and reports, as well as minutes of board meetings that describe the factors considered and the basis for adopting or continuing a rule 12b-1 plan.

The board and shareholder approval requirements of rule 12b-1 are designed to ensure that fund shareholders and directors receive adequate information to evaluate and approve a rule 12b-1 plan. The requirement of quarterly reporting to the board is designed to ensure that the rule 12b-1 plan continues to benefit the fund and its shareholders. The recordkeeping requirements of the rule are necessary to enable Commission staff to oversee compliance with the rule.

Based on information filed with the Commission by funds, Commission staff estimates that there are 4,500 mutual Start Printed Page 16979funds with rule 12b-1 plans. As discussed above, rule 12b-1 requires the board of each fund with a rule 12b-1 plan to (i) review quarterly reports of amounts spent under the plan and (ii) annually consider the plan's continuation (which generally is combined with the fourth quarterly review). This results in a total number of annual responses per fund of four and an estimated total number of industry responses of 18,000 (4,500 funds ×4 annual responses per fund=18,000 responses).

Based on conversations with fund industry representatives, Commission staff estimates that for each of the 4,500 mutual funds that currently have a rule 12b-1 plan, the average annual burden of complying with the rule is 50 hours to maintain the plan. This estimate takes into account the time needed to prepare quarterly reports to the board of directors, the board's consideration of those reports, and the board's annual consideration of the plan's continuation. Commission staff therefore estimates that the total burden of the rule's paperwork requirements is 225,000 hours (4,500 funds × 50 hours per fund = 225,000 hours).

The estimate of burden hours is made solely for the purposes of the Paperwork Reduction Act. The estimate is not derived from a comprehensive or even a representative survey or study of Commission rules.

If a currently operating fund seeks to (i) adopt a new rule 12b-1 plan or (ii) materially increase the amount it spends for distribution under its rule 12b-1 plan, rule 12b-1 requires that the fund obtain sharehold approval. As a consequence, the funds will incur the cost of a proxy. Commission staff estimates that four funds per year prepare a proxy in connection with the adoption or material amendment of a rule 12b-1 plan. Commission staff further estimates that the cost of each fund's proxy is $15,000. Thus the total annualized cost burden of rule 12b-1 to the fund industry is $60,000 (4 funds requiring a proxy × $15,000 per proxy).

The collections of information required by rule 12b-1 are necessary to obtain the benefits of the rule. Notices to the Commission will not be kept confidential. 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 requested on: (a) Whether the collections of information are 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 burdens 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 Michael E. Bartell, Associate Executive Director, Office of Information Technology, Securities and Exchange Commission, 450 5th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20549.

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Dated: March 24, 2000.

Margaret H. McFarland,

Deputy Secretary.

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[FR Doc. 00-7841 Filed 3-29-00; 8:45 am]