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Notice

Nations Separate Account Trust, et al.

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Start Preamble July 31, 2001.

AGENCY:

Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC” or “Commission”).

ACTION:

Notice of application for an order under section 6(c) of the Investment Company Act of 1940 (the “1940 Act”) for exemptions from the provisions of sections 9(a), 13(a), 15(a) and 15(b) of the 1940 Act and Rules 6e-2(b)(15) and 6e-3(T)(b)(15) thereunder.

Summary of Application

Applicants seek an order to permit shares of Nations Separate Account Trust (the “Trust”) [1] and shares of any other investment company or portfolio that is designed to fund insurance products and for which Banc of America Advisors, LLC (“BA Advisors”) or any of its affiliates may serve in the future as investment adviser, manager, principal underwriter, sponsor, or administrator (“Future Trusts”) (the Trust together with Future Trusts are the “Trusts”) to be sold to and held by: (a) Separate accounts funding variable annuity and variable life insurance contracts (collectively referred to herein as “Variable Contracts”) issued by both affiliated and unaffiliated life insurance companies; (b) qualified pension and retirement plans (“Qualified Plans”) outside of the separate account context; (c) separate accounts that are not registered as investment companies under the 1940 Act pursuant to exemptions from registration under section 3(c) of the 1940 Act; (d) BA Advisors or its affiliates (collectively, “BA Advisors”); and (e) the general account of any life insurance company, or certain related corporations, whose separate accounts hold, or will hold, Start Printed Page 41275shares of the Trusts (“General Accounts”).

Applicants: The Trust and Banc of America Advisors, LLC.

Filing Date: The application was filed on August 4, 2000 and amended on July 30, 2001.

Hearing or Notification of Hearing: An order granting the application will be issued unless the Commission orders a hearing. Interested persons may request a hearing on this application by writing to the Commission's Secretary and serving Applicants with a copy of the request, in person or by mail. Hearing requests must be received by the SEC by 5:30 p.m. on August 23, 2001, and accompanied by proof of service on the Applicants in the form of an affidavit or, for lawyers, a certificate of service. Hearing requests should state the nature of the writer's interest, the reason for the request, and the issues contested. Persons may request notification of the date of a hearing by writing to the Secretary of the SEC.

ADDRESSES:

Secretary, SEC, 450 Fifth Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20549-0609. Applicants, c/o Robert B. Carroll, Esq., Bank of America Corporation, One Bank of America Plaza NC1-002-33-31, 101 South Tryon Street, Charlotte, North Carolina 28255.

Start Further Info

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Joyce M. Pickholz, Senior Counsel, or Keith E. Carpenter, Branch Chief, Division of Investment Management, Office of Insurance Products, at (202) 942-0670.

End Further Info End Preamble Start Supplemental Information

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

The following is a summary of the application. The complete application may be obtained for a fee from the SEC's Public Reference Branch, 450 Fifth Street, NW., Washington, DC 20549-0102 [tel. (202) 942-8090].

Applicants' Representations

1. The Trust is registered with the Commission as an open-end management investment company and is organized as a Delaware business trust. BA Advisors is registered with the Commission as an investment adviser under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940, as amended, and serves as the investment adviser to the Trust. The Trust currently consists of eleven investment portfolios: Nations Value Portfolio, Nations Marsico 21st Century Portfolio, Nations Marsico Focused Equities Portfolio, Nations Marsico Growth & Income Portfolio, Nations Marsico International Opportunities Portfolio, Nations Capital Growth Portfolio, Nations Small Company Portfolio, Nations Asset Allocation Portfolio, Nations International Value Portfolio, Nations High Yield Bond Portfolio and Nations MidCap Growth Portfolio (each, a “Portfolio,” and collectively the “Portfolios”). The Trust or any Future Trusts may offer one or more additional investment portfolios in the future (also referred to as “Portfolios”).

2. Currently shares of the Portfolios are offered to separate accounts funding variable annuity contracts issued by The Hartford Life Insurance Company. Shares of the Portfolios will be offered to separate accounts of affiliated and unaffiliated insurance companies (each, a “Participating Insurance Company”) to serve as investment vehicles to fund Variable Contracts. These accounts either will be registered as investment companies under the 1940 Act or will be exempt from such registration (“Separate Account(s)”). Shares of the Portfolios will also be offered to Qualified Plans.

3. The Participating Insurance Companies at the time of their investment in the Trusts either have or will establish their own Separate Accounts and design their own Variable Contracts. Each Participating Insurance Company has or will have the legal obligation of satisfying all applicable requirements under both state and federal law. Each participating Insurance Company, on behalf of its Separate Accounts, has or will enter into an agreement with the Trusts concerning such Participating Insurance Company's participation in the Portfolios. The role of the Trusts under this agreement, insofar as the federal securities laws are applicable, will consist of, among other things, offering shares of the Portfolios to the participating Separate Accounts and complying with any conditions that the Commission may impose upon granting the order requested herein.

4. To the extent permitted by the Treasury Department Regulations (Treas. Reg. 1.817-5(f)(3)(i), (ii)), shares of each Portfolio may be sold to General Accounts and BA Advisors. The Regulations permit such sales as long as the return on shares held by the General Accounts or BA Advisors is computed in the same manner as for shares held by a Separate Account, and the General Accounts or BA Advisors do not intend to sell shares of the Portfolio held by it to the public. An additional restriction is imposed by the Regulations on sales to advisers, who may hold shares only in connection with the creation or management of the Portfolio. Applicants anticipate that sales in reliance on these provisions of the Regulations generally will be made to BA Advisors and generally for purposes of providing necessary capital required by section 14(a) of the 1940 Act. Any shares of a Portfolio purchased by BA Advisors will be automatically redeemed if and when BA Advisors' advisory agreement terminates, to the extent required by applicable Treasury Regulations.

Applicants' Legal Analysis

1. In connection with the funding of scheduled premium variable life insurance contracts issued through a separate account registered as a unit investment trust (“UIT”) under the 1940 Act 6e-2(b)(15) provides partial exemptions from sections 9(a), 13(a), 15(a) and 15(b) of the 1940 Act. Rule 6e-2(b)(15) provides these exemptions only where all of the assets of the UIT are shares of management investment companies “which offer their shares exclusively to variable life insurance separate accounts of the life insurer or of any affiliated life insurance company.” Therefore, the relief granted by Rule 6e-2(b)(15) is not available with respect to a scheduled premium variable life insurance separate account that owns shares of an underlying fund that also offers its shares to a variable annuity separate account or flexible premium variable life insurance separate account of the same company or any other affiliated insurance company. The use of a common management investment company as the underlying investment vehicle for both variable annuity and variable life insurance separate accounts of the same life insurance company or of any affiliated life insurance company is referred to as “mixed funding.”

2. The relief granted by Rule 6e-2(b)(15) also is not available with respect to a scheduled premium variable life insurance separate account that owns shares of an underlying fund that also offers its shares to separate accounts funding Variable Contracts of one or more unaffiliated life insurance companies. The use of a common management investment company as the underlying investment vehicle for variable annuity and/or variable life insurance separate accounts of unaffiliated life insurance companies is referred to as “shared funding.”

3. Because the relief under Rule 6e-2(b)(15) is available only where shares are offered exclusively to variable life insurance separate accounts of a life insurer or any affiliated life insurance company, additional exemptive relief is necessary if the shares of the Portfolios are also to be sold to Qualified Plans or other eligible holders of shares, as described above. The use of a common management investment company as the underlying investment vehicle for Start Printed Page 41276variable annuity and variable life separate of affiliated and unaffiliated insurance companies, and for Qualified Plans, is referred to as “extended mixed and shared funding.”

4. In connection with flexible premium variable life insurance contracts issued through a separate account registered under the 1940 Act as a UIT, Rule 6e-3(T)(b)(15) provides partial exemptions from sections 9(a), 13(a), 15(a) and 15(b) of the 1940 Act. The exemptions granted by Rule 6e-3(T)(b)(15) are available only where all the assets of the separate account consist of the shares of one or more registered management investment companies which offer to sell their shares “exclusively to separate accounts of the life insurer, or of any affiliated life insurance companies, offering either scheduled contracts or flexible contracts, or both; or which also offer their shares to variable annuity separate accounts of the life insurer or of an affiliated life insurance company.” Therefore, Rule 6e-3(T)(b)(15) permits mixed funding but does not permit shared funding.

5. The relief under Rule 6e-3(T) is available only where shares are offered exclusively to variable life insurance separate accounts of a life insurer or any affiliated life insurance companies. Additional exemptive relief is necessary if the shares of the Portfolios are also to be sold to Qualified Plans or other eligible holders of shares, as described above.

6. Applicants maintain that there is no policy reason for the sale of the Portfolios' shares to Qualified Plans to result in a prohibition against, or otherwise limit a Participating Insurance Company from relying on the relief provided by Rules 6e-2(b)(15) and 6e-3(T)(b)(15). However, because the relief under Rules 6e-2(b)(15) and 6e-3T(b)(15) is available only when shares are offered exclusively to separate accounts, additional exemptive relief may be necessary if the shares of the Portfolios are also to be sold to Qualified Plans, BA Advisors or General Accounts. Applicants note that if the Portfolios' shares were to be sold only to Qualified Plans, BA Advisors, General Accounts and/or separate accounts funding variable annuity contracts, exemptive relief under Rule 6e-2 and Rule 6e-3(T) would be unnecessary. The relief provided for under Rule 6e-2(b)(15) and 6e-3(T)(b)(15) does not relate to Qualified Plans, BA Advisors, or General Accounts, or to a registered investment company's ability to sell its shares to such purchasers.

7. Applicants note that the promulgation of Rules 6e-2(b)(15) and 6e-3(T)(b)(15) preceded the issuance of the Regulations that made it possible for shares of an investment company portfolio to be held by the trustee of a Qualified Plan without adversely affecting the ability of shares in the same investment company portfolio also to be held by the separate accounts of insurance companies in connection with their Variable Contracts. Thus, the sale of shares of the same portfolio to both separate accounts and Qualified Plans was not contemplated at the time of the adoption of Rules 6e-2(b)(15) and 6e-3(T)(b)(15).

8. Consistent with the Commission's authority under Section 6(c) of the 1940 Act to grant exemptive orders to a class or classes of persons and transactions, the Applicants request relief for the class consisting of insurers and Separate Accounts that will invest in the Portfolios and to the extend necessary, Qualified Plans, other eligible holders of shares and investment advisers, principal underwriters and depositors of such accounts.

9. Section 9(a)(3) of the 1940 Act provides that it is unlawful for any company to serve as investment adviser or principal underwriter of any registered open-end investment company if an affiliated person of that company is subject to a disqualification enumerated in sections 9(a) (1) or (2). Rules 6e-2(b)(15) (i) and (ii) and Rules 6e-3(T)(b)(15) (i) and (ii) under the 1940 Act provide exemptions from section 9(a) under certain circumstances, subject to the limitations discussed above on mixed and shared funding. These exemptions limit the application of the eligibility restrictions to affiliated individuals or companies that directly participate in management of the underlying management company.

10. Applicants submit that the partial relief granted in Rules 6e-2(b)(15) and 6e-3(T)(b)(15) under the 1940 Act from the requirements of section 9 of the 1940 Act, in effect, limits the amount of monitoring necessary to ensure compliance with section 9 to that which is appropriate in light of the policy and purposes of section 9. Those 1940 Act rules recognize that it is not necessary for the protection of investors or the purposes fairly intended by the policy and provisions of the 1940 Act to apply the provisions of section 9(a) to individuals in a large insurance company complex, most of whom will have no involvement in matters pertaining to investment companies in that organization. The Participating Insurance Companies and Qualified Plans are not expected to play any role in the management of the Trusts. Those individuals who participate in the management of the Trusts will remain the same regardless of which Separate Accounts or Qualified Plans invests in the Trusts. Applying the monitoring requirements of section 9(a) of the 1940 Act because of investment by separate accounts of other insurers or Qualified Plans would be unjustified and would not serve any regulatory purpose. Furthermore, the increased monitoring costs could reduce the net rates of return realized by contract owners.

11. Applicants state that since Qualified Plans, BA Advisors and General Accounts, unlike the Separate Accounts, are not themselves investment companies and, therefore, are not subject to section 9 of the 1940 Act and will not be deemed affiliates solely by virtue of their shareholdings, no additional relief is necessary.

12. Rules 6e-2(b)(15)(iii) and 6e-3(T)(b)(15)(iii) under the 1940 Act provide exemptions from the pass-through voting requirement with respect to several significant matters assuming the limitations on mixed and shared funding are observed. Rules 6e-2(b)(15)(iii)(A) and 6e-3(T)(b)(15)(iii)(A) provide that the insurance company may disregard the voting instructions of its contract owners with respect to the investments of an underlying fund, or any contract between such a fund and its investment adviser, when required to do so by an insurance regulatory authority (subject to the provisions of paragraphs (b)(5)(i) and (b)(7)(ii)(A) of Rules 6e-2 and 6e-3(T), respectively, under the 1940 Act). Rules 6e-2(b)(15)(iii)(B) and 6e-3(T)(b)(15)(iii)(A)(2) provide that the insurance company may disregard the voting instructions of its contract owners if the contract owners initiate any change in an underlying fund's investment policies, principal underwriter, or any investment adviser (provided that disregarding such voting instructions is reasonable and subject to the other provisions of paragraphs (b)(5)(ii), (b)(7)(ii)(B), and (b)(7)(ii)(C), respectively, of Rules 6e-2 and 6e-3(T) under the 1940 Act).

13. Applicants assert that Rule 6e-2 under the 1940 Act recognizes that a variable life insurance contract, as an insurance contract, has important elements unique to insurance contracts and is subject to extensive state regulation of insurance. In adopting Rule 6e-2(b)(15)(iii), the Commission expressly recognized that state insurance regulators have authority, pursuant to state insurance laws or regulations, to disapprove or require changes in investment policies, Start Printed Page 41277investment advisers, or principal underwriters. The Commission also expressly recognized that state insurance regulators have authority to require an insurer to draw from its general account to cover costs imposed upon the insurer by a change approved by contract owners over the insurer's objection. The Commission, therefore, deemed such exemptions necessary to assure the solvency of the life insurer and performance of its contractual obligations by enabling an insurance regulatory authority or the life insurer to act when certain proposals reasonably could be expected to increase the risks undertaken by the life insurer. In this respect, flexible premium variable life insurance contracts are identical to scheduled premium variable life insurance contracts. Therefore, the corresponding provisions of Rule 6e-3(T) under the 1940 Act undoubtedly were adopted in recognition of the same factors.

14. Applicants state that with respect to the Qualified Plans, which are not registered as investment companies under the 1940 Act, there is no requirement to pass through voting rights to Qualified Plan participants. Indeed, to the contrary, applicable law expressly reserves voting rights associated with Qualified Plan assets to certain specified persons. Under Section 403(a) of ERISA, shares of a portfolio of a fund sold to a Qualified Plan must be held by the trustees of the Qualified Plan. Section 403(a) also provides that the trustee(s) must have exclusive authority and discretion to manage and control the Qualified Plan with two exceptions: (a) when the Qualified Plan expressly provides that the trustee(s) are subject to the direction of a named fiduciary who is not a trustee, in which case the trustees are subject to proper directions made in accordance with the terms of the Qualified Plan and not contrary to ERISA, and (b) when the authority to manage, acquire, or dispose of assets of the Qualified Plan is delegated to one or more investment managers pursuant to section 402(c)(3) of ERISA. Unless one of the above two exceptions stated in section 403(a) applies, Qualified Plan trustees have the exclusive authority and responsibility for voting proxies. Similarly, BA Advisors and General Accounts are not subject to any pass-through voting requirements. Accordingly, unlike the case with insurance company separate accounts, the issue of resolution of material irreconcilable conflicts with respect to voting is not present with Qualified Plans, BA Advisors or General Accounts.

15. Where a named fiduciary to a Qualified Plan appoints an investment manager, the investment manager has the responsibility to vote the shared held unless the right to vote such shares is reserved to the trustees or the named fiduciary. The Qualified Plans may have their trustee(s) or other fiduciaries exercise voting rights attributable to investment securities held by the Qualified Plans in their discretion. Some of the Qualified Plans, however, may provide for the trustee(s), an investment adviser (or advisers), or another named fiduciary to exercise voting rights in accordance with instructions from participants.

16. Where a Qualified Plan does not provide participants with the right to give voting instructions, the trustee or named fiduciary has responsibility to vote the shares held by the Qualified Plan. In this circumstance, the trustee has a fiduciary duty to vote the shares in the best interest of the Qualified Plan participants. Accordingly, even if BA Advisors were to serve in the capacity of trustee or named fiduciary with voting responsibilities, BA Advisors would have a fiduciary duty to vote those shares in the best interest of the Qualified Plan participants.

17. In addition, even if a Qualified Plan were to hold a controlling interest in a Portfolio, Applications do not believe that such control would disadvantage other investors in such Portfolio to any greater extent that is the case when any institutional shareholder holds a majority of the voting securities of any open-end management investment company. In this regard, Applicants submit that investment in a Portfolio by a Qualified Plan will not create any of the voting complications occasioned by mixed funding or shared funding. Unlike mixed funding or shared funding, Qualified Plan investor voting rights cannot be frustrated by veto rights of insurers or state regulators.

18. Where a Qualified Plan provides participants with the right to give voting instructions, Applicants see no reason to believe that participants in Qualified Plans generally or those in a particular Qualified Plan, either as a single group or in combination with participants in other Qualified Plans, would vote in a manner that would disadvantage Variable Contract holders. The purchase of shares Portfolios by Qualified Plans that provide voting rights does not present any complications not otherwise occasioned by mixed or shared funding.

19. Applicants submit that the prohibitions on mixed and shared funding might reflect concern regarding possible different investment motivations among investors. When Rule 6e-2 under the 1940 Act was adopted, variable annuity separate accounts could invest in mutual funds whose shares also were offered to the general public. Therefore, the Commission staff contemplated underlying funds with public shareholders, as well as with variable life insurance separate account shareholders. The Commission staff may have been concerned with the potentially different investment motivations of public shareholders and variable life insurance contract owners. There also may have been some concern with respect to the problems of permitting a state insurance regulatory authority to affect the operations of a publicly available mutual fund to affect the investment decisions of public shareholders.

20. For reasons unrelated to the 1940 Act, however, Internal Revenue Service Revenue Rule 81-225 (Sep. 25, 1981) effectively deprived variable annuities funded by publicly available mutual funds of their tax-benefited status. The Tax Reform Act of 1984 codified the prohibition against the use of publicly available mutual funds as an investment vehicle for Variable Contracts (including variable life contracts). Section 817(h) of the Code in effect requires that the investment made by variable annuity and variable life insurance separate accounts by “adequately diversified.” If a separate account is organized as a UIT that invests in a single fund or series, the diversification test will be applied at the underlying fund level, rather than at the separate account level, but only if “all of the beneficial interests” in the underlying fund are held by one or more insurance companies (or affiliated companies) in their general account or in segregated asset accounts. Accordingly, a UIT separate account that invests solely in a publicly available mutual fund will not be adequately diversified. In addition, any underlying mutual fund, including any Portfolio, that sells shares to separate accounts, in effect, would be precluded from also selling its shares to the public. Consequently, there will be no public shareholders of any Portfolio.

21. Applicants assert that shared funding by unaffiliated insurance companies does not present any issues that do not already exist where a single insurance company is licensed to do business in several or all states. A particular state insurance regulatory body could require action that is inconsistent with the requirements of other states in which the insurance company offers its policies. The fact that different insurers may be domiciled in Start Printed Page 41278different states does not create a significantly different or enlarged problem.

22. Applicants argue that shared funding by unaffiliated insurers, in this respect, is no different than the use of the same investment company as the funding vehicle for affiliated insurers, which Rules 6e-2(b)(15) and 6e-3(T)(b)(15) under the 1940 Act permit. Affiliated insurers may be domiciled in different states and be subject to differing state law requirements. Affiliation does not reduce the potential, if any exists, for differences in state regulatory requirements. In any event, the conditions set forth below are designed to safeguard against, and provide procedure for resolving, any adverse effects that differences among state regulatory requirements may produce. If a particular state insurance regulator's decision conflicts with the majority of other state regulators, then the affected insurer will be required to withdraw its Separate Account's investment in the affected Trust. This requirement will be provided for in agreements that will be entered into by Participating Insurance Companies with respect to their participation in the relevant Portfolio.

23. Rules 6e-2(b)(15) and 6e-3(T)(b)(15) under the 1940 Act give the insurance company the right to disregard the voting instructions of the contract owners. Applicants submit that this right does not raise any issues different from those raised by the authority of state insurance administrators over separate accounts. Under Rules 6e-2(b)(15) and 6e-3(T)(b)(15), an insurer can disregard contract owner voting instructions only with respect to certain specified items. Affiliation does not eliminate the potential, if any exists, for divergent judgments as to the advisability or legality of a change in investment policies, principal underwriter, or investment adviser initiated by contract owners. The potential for disagreement is limited by the requirements in Rules 6e-2 and 6e-3(T) under the 1940 Act that the insurance company's disregard of voting instructions be reasonable and based on specific good-faith determinations. However, if the insurer's judgment represents a minority position or would preclude a majority vote, then the insurer may be required, at the affected Trust's election, to withdraw its Separate Account's investment in such Portfolio. No charge or penalty will be imposed as a result of such withdrawal. This requirement will be provided for in the agreement entered into with respect to participation by the Participating Insurance Companies in each Portfolio.

24. Applicants represent that each Portfolio will be managed to attempt to achieve the investment objective or objective of such Portfolio, and not to favor or disfavor any particular Participating Insurance Company or type of insurance product. There is no reason to believe that different features of various types of contract, including the “minimum death benefit” guarantee under certain variable life insurance contracts, will lead to different investment policies for different types of Variable Contracts. To the extent that the degree of risk may differ as between variable annuity contracts and variable life insurance policies, the differing insurance charges imposed, in effect, adjust any such differences and equalize the insurers' exposure in either case.

25. Applicants do not believe that the sale of the shares of the Portfolios to Qualified Plans will increase the potential for material irreconcilable conflicts of interest between or among different types of investors. In particular, Applicants see very little potential for such conflicts beyond those that would otherwise exist between variable annuity and variable life insurance contract owners. Moreover, in considering the appropriateness of the requested relief, Applicants state that they have analyzed the following issues to assure themselves that there were either no conflicts of interest or that there existed the ability by the affected parties to resolve the issues without harm to the contract owners in the Separate Accounts or to the participants under the Qualified Plans.

26. Applicants considered whether there are any issues raised under the Code, Regulations, or Revenue Rulings thereunder, if Qualified Plans, variable annuity separate accounts, and variable life insurance separate accounts all invest in the same underlying fund. As noted above, section 817(h) of the Code imposes certain diversification standards on the underlying assets of Variable Contracts held in an underlying mutual fund. The Code provides that a Variable Contract shall not be treated as an annuity contract or life insurance, as applicable, for any period (and any subsequent period) for which the investments are not, in accordance with regulations prescribed by the Treasury Department, adequately diversified.

27. Regulations issued under section 817(h) provide that, in order to meet the statutory diversification requirements, all of the beneficial interests in the investment company must be held by the segregated assets accounts of one or more insurance companies. However, the Regulations contain certain exceptions to this requirement, one of which allows shares in an underlying mutual fund to be held by the trustees of a qualified pension or retirement plan without adversely affecting the ability of such shares also to be held by separate accounts of insurance companies in connection with their Variable Contracts. (Treas. Reg. 1.817-5(f)(3)(iii)). Thus, the Regulations specifically permit “qualified pension or retirement plans” and separate accounts to invest in the same underlying fund. For this reason, Applicants have concluded that neither the Code, nor Regulations, nor Revenue Rulings thereunder, present any inherent conflicts of interest if the Qualified Plans and Separate Accounts all invest in the same Portfolio.

28. Applicants note that while there are differences in the manner in which distributions from Variable Contracts and Qualified Plans are taxed, these differences will have no impact on the Trusts. When distributions are to be made, and a Separate Account or Qualified Plans is unable to net purchase payments to make the distributions, the Separate Account and Qualified Plan will redeem shares of the relevant Portfolio at their respective net asset value in conformity with Rule 22c-1 under the 1940 Act (without the imposition of any sales charge) to provide proceeds to meet distribution needs. A Participating Insurance Company then will make distributions in accordance with the terms of its Variable Contract, and a Qualified Plan then will make distribution in accordance with the terms of the Qualified Plan.

29. Applicants represent that, in connection with any meeting of shareholders, the soliciting Trust will inform each shareholder, including each Separate Account and Qualified Plan, BA Advisors and General Account, of information necessary for the meeting, including their respective share of ownership in the relevant Portfolio. Each Participating Insurance Company then will solicit voting instructions in accordance with Rules 6e-2 and 6e-3(T), as applicable, and its agreement with the Trusts concerning participation in the relevant Portfolio. Shares of a Portfolio that are held by BA Advisors and any General Account will be voted as set forth below in the Applicants' Conditions. Shares held by Qualified Plans will be voted in accordance with applicable law. The voting rights provided to Qualified Plans with respect to shares of a Portfolio would be no different from the voting rights that are Start Printed Page 41279provided to Qualified Plans with respect to shares of funds sold to the general public. Furthermore, if a material irreconcilable conflict arises because of a Qualified Plan's decision to disregard Qualified Plan participant voting instructions, If applicable, and that decision represents a minority position or would preclude a majority vote, the Qualified Plan may be required, at the election of the affected Trust, to withdraw its investment in such Portfolio, and no charge or penalty will be imposed as a result of such withdrawal.

30. Applicants reviewed whether a “senior security,” as such term is defined under Section 18(g) of the 1940 Act, is created with respect to any Variable Contract owner as opposed to a participant under a Qualified Plan, BA Advisors or a General Account. Applicants concluded that the ability of the Trusts to sell shares of their Portfolios directly to Qualified Plans, BA Advisors or a General Account does not create a senior security. Senior security is defined under section 18(g) of the 1940 Act to include “any stock of a class having priority over any other class as to distribution of assets or payment of dividends.” As noted above, regardless of the rights and benefits of participants under Qualified Plans, or contract owners under Variable Contracts, the Qualified Plans, BA Advisors, General Accounts and the Separate Account only have rights with respect to their respective shares of the Portfolio. They only can redeem such shares at net asset value. No shareholder of a Portfolio has any preference over any other shareholder with respect to distribution of assets or payment of dividends.

31. Applicants assert that permitting a Portfolio to sell its shares to BA Advisors or to the General Account of a participating insurance company in compliance with Treas. Reg. 1.817-5 will enhance Portfolio management without raising significant concerns regarding material irreconcilable conflicts. Unlike the circumstances of many investment companies that serve as underlying investment media for variable insurance products, the Trust may be deemed to lack an insurance company “promoter” for purposes of Rule 14-2 under the 1940 Act. Applicants state that they anticipate that other Portfolios that are established as new registrants will be subject to the requirements of section 14(a) of the 1940 Act, which generally requires that an investment company have a net worth of $100,000 upon making a public offering of its shares. Portfolios also will require more limited amounts of initial capital in connection with the creating of new series and the voting of initial shares of such series on matters requiring the approval of shareholders. A potential source of requisite initial capital is a Portfolio's adviser or participating insurance company.

32. Applicants assert that given the conditions of Treas. Reg. 1.817-5(f)(3) and the harmony of interest between the Portfolio and BA Advisors or a Participating Insurance Company, little incentive for overreaching exists. Applicant also argue that such investment should not implicate the concerns discussed above regarding the creation of material irreconcilable conflicts. Instead, permitting investment by BA Advisors or Participating Insurance Companies' General Accounts will permit the orderly and efficient creation and operation of the Trusts or series thereof, and reduce the expense and uncertainty of using outside parties at the early stages of Portfolio operations.

33. Applicants submit that various factors have kept more insurance companies from offering variable annuity and variable life insurance contracts than currently offer such contracts. These factors include the costs of organizing and operating a funding vehicle, the lack of expertise with respect to investment management, and the lack of name recognition by the public of certain insurers as investment experts with whom the public feels comfortable entrusting their investment dollars. Some smaller life insurance companies may not find it economically feasible, or within their investment or administrative expertise, to enter the Variable Contract business on their own. Use of a Portfolio as a common investment vehicle for Variable Contracts would reduce or eliminate these concerns. Mixed and shared funding also should provide several benefits to Variable Contact owners by eliminating a significant portion of the costs of establishing and administering separate funds. Participating Insurance Companies will benefit not only from the investment and administrative expertise of BA Advisors, but also from the potential cost efficiencies and investment flexibility afforded by a larger pool of funds. Mixed and shared funding also would permit a greater amount of assets available for investment by a Portfolio, thereby promoting economies of scale, by permitting increased safety through greater diversification, or by making the addition of new Portfolios more feasible. Therefore, making the Portfolios available for mixed and shared funding will encourage more insurance companies to offer Variable Contracts, and this should result in increased competition with respect to both Variable Contract design and pricing, which can be expected to result in more product variation and lower charges. Applicants also assert that the sale of shares of the Portfolios to Qualified Plans, in addition to the Separate Accounts, will result in an increased amount of assets available for investment by such Portfolios. This may benefit Variable Contract owners by promoting economies of scale, by permitting increased safety of investments through greater diversification, and by making the addition of new Portfolios more feasible.

34. Applicants state that, regardless of the type of shareholder in a Portfolio, BA Advisors is or would be contractually and otherwise obligated to manage the Portfolio solely and exclusively in accordance with that Portfolio's investment objectives, policies and restrictions as well as any guidelines established by the Board of Trustees of the particular Trust. BA Advisors will work with the commingled pool of assets of each Portfolio and will not take into account the identity of the shareholders. Thus, each Portfolio will be managed in the same manner as any other mutual fund.

35. Applicants state that they see no significant legal impediment to permitting mixed and shared funding. Separate accounts organized as UITs historically have been employed to accumulate shares of mutual funds that are not affiliated with the depositor or sponsor of the separate account. Applicants assert that mixed and shared funding and sales of Portfolio shares to Qualified Plans, BA Advisors and General Accounts to the extent described above will not have any adverse Federal income tax consequences.

Applicants' Conditions

Applicants agree that the order granting the requested relief shall be subject to the following conditions (these conditions will also apply to any Future Trust that relies on the order):

1. A majority of the Board of Trustees (the “Board”) of the Trust will consist of persons who are not “interested persons” of the Trust, as defined by Section 2(a)(19) of the 1940 Act, and the rules thereunder, and as modified by any applicable orders of the Commission, except that if this condition is not met by reason of the death, disqualification, or bona-fide resignation of any trustee or trustees, then the operation of this condition will be suspended: (a) For a period of 45 Start Printed Page 41280days if the vacancy or vacancies may be filled by the Board; (b) for a period of 60 days if a vote of shareholders is required to fill the vacancy or vacancies; or (c) for such longer period as the Commission may prescribed by order upon application.

2. The Board will monitor the Trust for the existence of any material irreconcilable conflict between the interests of the contract owners of all Separate Accounts and participants of all Qualified Plans investing in such Trust, and determine what action, if any should be taken in response to such conflicts. A material irreconcilable conflict may arise for a variety of reasons, including: (a) An action by any state insurance regulatory authority; (b) a change in applicable Federal or state insurance, tax, or securities laws or regulations, or a public ruling, private letter ruling, no-action or interpretative letter, or any similar action by insurance, tax, or securities regulatory authorities; (c) an administrative or judicial decision in any relevant proceeding; (d) the manner in which the investments of such Trust are being managed; (e) a difference in voting instructions given by variable annuity contract owners, variable life insurance contract owners, and trustees of the Qualified Plans; (f) a decision by a Participating Insurance Company to disregard the voting instructions of contract owners; or (g) if applicable, a decision by a Qualified Plan to disregard the voting instructions of Qualified Plan participants.

3. Participating Insurance Companies (on their own behalf as well as by virtue of any investment of general account assets in a Portfolio), BA Advisors, and any Qualified Plan that executes a participation agreement upon becoming an owner of 10 percent or more of the assets of any Portfolio (collectively, the “Participants”) will report any potential or existing conflicts to the Board. Participants will be responsible for assisting the Board in carrying out the Board's responsibilities under these conditions by providing the Board with all information reasonably necessary for the Board to consider any issues raised. This responsibility includes, but is not limited to, an obligation by each Participating Insurance Company to inform the Board whenever contract owner voting instructions are disregarded, and, if pass-through voting is applicable, an obligation by each Qualified Plan to inform the Board whenever it has determined to disregard Qualified Plan participant voting instructions. The responsibility to report such information and conflicts, and to assist the Board, will be a contractual obligation of all Participating Insurance Companies under their participation agreements with the Trust, and these responsibilities will be carried out with a view only to the interests of the contract owners. The responsibility to report such information and conflicts, and to assist the Board, also will be contractual obligations of all Qualified Plans with participation agreements, and such agreements will provide that these responsibilities will be carried out with a view only to the interests of Qualified Plan participants.

4. If it is determined by a majority of the Board, or a majority of the disinterested trustees of the Board, that a material irreconcilable conflict exists, then the relevant Participant will, at its expense and to the extent reasonably practicable (as determined by a majority of the disinterested trustees), take whatever steps are necessary to remedy or eliminate the material irreconcilable conflict, up to and including: (a) withdrawing the assets allocable to some or all of the Separate Accounts from the relevant Portfolio and reinvesting such assets in a different investment vehicle including another Portfolio, or in the case of Participating Insurance Company Participants submitting the question as to whether such segregation should be implemented to a vote of all affected contract owners and, as appropriate, segregating the assets of any appropriate group (i.e., annuity contract owners or life insurance contract owners of one or more Participating Insurance Companies) that votes in favor of such segregation, or offering to the affected contract owners the option of making such a change; and (b) establishing a new registered management investment company or managed separate account. If a material irreconcilable conflict arises because of a decision by a Participating Insurance Company to disregard contract owner voting instructions, and that decision represents a minority position or would preclude a majority vote, then the insurer may be required, at the election of the Trust, to withdraw such insurer's Separate Account's investment in the Trust, and no charge or penalty will be imposed as a result of such withdrawal. If a material irreconcilable conflict arises because of a Qualified Plan's decision to disregard Qualified Plan participant voting instructions, if applicable, and that decision represents a minority position or would preclude a majority vote, the Qualified Plan may be required, at the election of the Trust, to withdraw its investment in the Trust, and no charge or penalty will be imposed as a result of such withdrawal. The responsibility to take remedial action in the event of a Board determination of a material irreconcilable conflict and to bear the cost of such remedial action will be a contractual obligation of all Participants under their agreements governing participation in the Trust, and these responsibilities will be carried out with a view only to the interests of contract owners and Qualified Plan participants.

For purposes of this Condition 4, a majority of the disinterested members of the Board will determine whether or not any proposed action adequately remedies any material irreconcilable conflict, but in no event will the Trust or BA Advisors, as relevant, be required to establish a new funding vehicle for any Variable Contract. No Participating Insurance Company will be required by this Condition 4 to establish a new funding vehicle for any Variable Contract if any offer to do so has been declined by vote of a majority of the contract owners materially and adversely affected by the material irreconcilable conflict. Further no Qualified Plan will be required by this Condition 4 to establish a new funding vehicle for the Qualified Plan if (a) a majority of the Qualified Plan participants materially and adversely affected by the irreconcilable material conflict vote to decline such offer, or (b) pursuant to documents governing the Qualified Plan, the Qualified Plan makes such decision without a Qualified Plan participant vote.

5. The Board's determination of the existence of a material irreconcilable conflict and its implications will be made known in writing promptly to all Participants.

6. As to Variable Contracts issued by Separate Accounts registered under the 1940 Act, Participating Insurance Companies will provide pass-through voting privileges to all Variable Contract owners as required by the 1940 Act as interpreted by the Commission. However, as to Variable Contracts issued by unregistered Separate Accounts, pass-through voting privileges will be extended to contract owners to the extent granted by the issuing insurance company. Accordingly, such Participants, where applicable, will vote shares of the applicable Portfolio held in their Separate Accounts in a manner consistent with voting instructions timely received from Variable Contract owners. Participating Insurance Companies will be responsible for assuring that each Separate Account investing in a Portfolio calculates voting Start Printed Page 41281privileges in a manner consistent with other Participants.

The obligation to calculate voting privileges in a manner consistent with other Participants will be a contractual obligation of all Participating Insurance Companies under their agreement with the Trusts governing participation in a Portfolio. Each Participating Insurance Company will vote shares for which it has not received timely voting instructions, as well as shares held in its General Account or otherwise attributed to it, in the same proportion as it votes those shares for which it has received voting instructions. Each Qualified Plan will vote as required by applicable law and governing Qualified Plan documents.

7. As long as the 1940 Act requires pass-through voting privileges to be provided to variable contract owners, BA Advisors will vote its shares of any Portfolio in the same proportion as all variable contract owners having voting rights with respect to that Portfolio; provided, however, that BA Advisors or any insurance company General Account shall vote its shares in such other manner as may be required by the Commission or its staff.

8. The Trust will comply with all provisions of the 1940 Act requiring voting by shareholders, which for these purposes, shall be the persons having a voting interest in the shares of the respective Portfolio, and, in particular, the Trust will either provide for annual meetings (except to the extent that the Commission may interpret section 16 of the 1940 Act not to require such meetings) or comply with section 16(c) of the 1940 Act (although the Trust is not one of the trusts of the type described in the section 16(c) of the 1940 Act), as well as with section 16(a) of the 1940 Act and, if and when applicable, section 16(b) of the 1940 Act. Further, the Trust will act in accordance with the Commission's interpretation of the requirements of section 16(a) with respect to periodic elections of trustees and with whatever rules the Commission may promulgate with respect thereto.

9. The Trust will notify all Participants that Separate Account prospectus disclosure or Qualified Plan prospectuses or other Qualified Plan disclosure documents regarding potential risks of mixed and shared funding may be appropriate. The Trust will disclose in its prospectus that (a) shares of the Trust may be offered to Separate Accounts of both variable annuity and variable life insurance contracts and, if applicable, to Qualified Plans, (b) due to differences in tax treatment and other considerations, the interests of various contract owners participating in the Trust and the interests of Qualified Plans investing in the Trust, if applicable, may conflict, and (c) the Trust's Board will monitor events in order to identify the existence of any material irreconcilable conflicts and to determine what action, if any, should be taken in response to any such conflict.

10. If and to the extent that Rule 6e-2 and Rule 6e-3(T) under the 1940 Act are amended, or proposed Rule 6e-3 under the 1940 Act is adopted, to provide exemptive relief from any provision of the 1940 Act, or the rules promulgated thereunder, with respect to mixed or shared funding, on terms and conditions materially different from any exemptions granted in the order requested in this Application, then the Trust and/or Participating Insurance Companies, as appropriate, shall take such steps as may be necessary to comply with Rules 6e-2 and 6e-3(T), or Rule 6e-3, as such rules are applicable.

11. The Participants, at least annually, will submit to the Board such reports, materials, or data as a Board reasonably may request so that the trustees of the Board may fully carry out the obligations imposed upon the Board by the conditions contained in this Application. Such reports, materials, and data will be submitted more frequently if deemed appropriate by the Board. The obligations of the Participants to provide these reports, materials, and data to the Board, when it so reasonably requests, will be a contractual obligation of all Participants under their agreements governing participation in the Portfolios.

12. All reports of potential or existing conflicts received by the Board, and all Board action with regard to determining the existence of a conflict, notifying Participants of a conflict, and determining whether any proposed action adequately remedies a conflict, will be properly recorded in the minutes of the Board or other appropriate records, and such minutes or other records shall be made available to the Commission upon request.

13. The Trust will not accept a purchase order from a Qualified Plan if such purchase would make the Qualified Plan shareholder an owner of 10 percent or more of the assets of such Portfolio unless such Qualified Plan executes an agreement with the Trust governing participation in such Portfolio that includes the conditions set forth herein to the extent applicable. A Qualified Plan or Qualified Plan participant will execute an application containing an acknowledgment of this condition at this time of its initial purchase of shares of any Portfolio.

Conclusion

For the reasons summarized above, Applicants assert that the requested exemptions are necessary and appropriate in the public interest and consistent with the protection of investors and the purposes fairly intended by the policy and provisions of the 1940 Act.

Start Signature

For the SEC, by the Division of Investment Management, under delegated authority.

Margaret H. McFarland,

Deputy Secretary.

End Signature End Supplemental Information

Footnotes

1.  Prior to May 1, 2001, the Trust was known as Nations Annuity Trust.

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[FR Doc. 01-19699 Filed 8-6-01; 8:45 am]

BILLING CODE 8010-01-M