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Notice

One Group Mutual Funds, et al.; Notice of Application

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Start Preamble June 14, 2002.

AGENCY:

Securities and Exchange Commission (“Commission”).

ACTION:

Notice of application for an order under (i) section 6(c) of the Investment Company Act of 1940 (the “Act”) granting an exemption from sections 18(f) and 21(b) of the Act; (ii) section 12(d)(1)(J) of the Act granting an exemption from section 12(d)(1) of the Act; (iii) sections 6(c) and 17(b) of the Act granting an exemption from sections 17(a)(1) and 17(a)(3) of the Act; and (iv) section 17(d) of the Act and rule 17d-1 under the Act to permit certain joint transactions.

Summary of Application: Applicants request an order that would permit certain registered open-end management investment companies to participate in a joint lending and borrowing facility.

Applicants: One Group Mutual Funds (the “Trust”), Banc One Investment Advisors Corporation (the “Investment Manager”), One Group Administrative Services, Inc. (the “Administrator”), and all other registered open-end investment companies and series thereof that are part of the same group of investment companies (as defined in section 12(d)(1)(G) of the Act) as the Trust and that are advised by the Investment Manager or a person controlling, controlled by, or under common control with the Investment Manager (together with the Trust and its series, the “Funds”).[1]

FILING DATES:

The application was filed on March 23, 2001, and amended on June 4, 2002, and June 10, 2002.

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 by writing to the Commission's Secretary and serving applicants with a copy of the request, personally or by mail. Hearing requests should be received by the Commission by 5:30 p.m. on July 9, 2002, and should be 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 who wish to be notified of a hearing may request notification by writing to the Commission's Secretary.

ADDRESSES:

Secretary, Commission, 450 5th Street, NW., Washington, DC 20549-0609; Applicants: c/o Bank One Corporation, 1111 Polaris Parkway, Suite 4P, Columbus, OH 43271-0152, Attn: Michael V. Wible, Esq.

Start Further Info

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Marilyn Mann, Senior Counsel, at (202) 942-0582, or Mary Kay Frech, Branch Chief, at (202) 942-0564 (Division of Investment Management, Office of Investment Company Regulation).

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 at the Commission's Public Reference Branch, 450 5th Street, NW., Washington, DC 20549-0102 (tel. (202) 942-8090).

Applicants' Representations

1. The Trust is registered under the Act as an open-end management investment company and is organized as a Massachusetts business trust. Currently, the Trust is comprised of forty-eight Funds. The Investment Manager is registered as an investment adviser under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 (the “Advisers Act”). Each Fund has entered into an investment advisory agreement with the Investment Manager. The Administrator serves as administrator for the Funds. Both the Investment Manager and the Administrator are wholly owned indirect subsidiaries of Bank One Corporation, a bank holding company incorporated in the state of Delaware.

2. Some Funds may lend money to banks or other entities by entering into repurchase agreements or purchasing other short-term instruments. Other Funds may borrow money from the same or similar banks for temporary Start Printed Page 42301purposes to satisfy redemption requests or to cover unanticipated cash shortfalls such as a trade “fail” in which cash payment for a security sold by a Fund has been delayed. Currently, the Funds have a credit arrangement with their custodian bank (i.e., overdraft protection) and have established a committed line of credit with a banking syndicate under which the banks lend money to the Funds to meet the Funds' temporary cash needs.

3. If the Funds were to borrow money from any bank under their current arrangements or under other credit facility arrangements, the Funds would pay interest on the borrowed cash at a rate which would be significantly higher than the rate that would be earned by other (non-borrowing) Funds on investments in repurchase agreements and other short-term instruments of the same maturity as the bank loan. Applicants believe this differential represents the bank's profit for serving as a middleman between a borrower and lender. In addition, the committed line of credit requires the Funds to pay substantial commitment fees in addition to the interest rate to be paid by the borrowing Fund.

4. Applicants request an order that would permit the Funds to enter into lending agreements (“Interfund Lending Agreements”) under which the Funds would lend money and borrow money for temporary purposes directly to and from each other through a credit facility (“Interfund Loan”). Applicants believe that the proposed credit facility would substantially reduce the Funds' potential borrowing costs and enhance their ability to earn higher rates of interest on short-term lendings. Although the proposed credit facility would substantially reduce the Funds' need to borrow from banks, the Funds would continue to maintain overdraft protection with their custodian and would also obtain an uncommitted line of credit with their custodian. They would terminate their committed line of credit.

5. Applicants anticipate that the credit facility would provide a borrowing Fund with significant savings when the cash position of the Fund is insufficient to meet temporary cash requirements. This situation could arise when redemptions exceed anticipated volumes and the Funds have insufficient cash on hand to satisfy such redemptions. When the Funds liquidate portfolio securities to meet redemption requests, which normally are effected immediately, they often do not receive payment in settlement for up to three days (or longer for certain foreign transactions). The credit facility would provide a source of immediate, short-term liquidity pending settlement of the sale of portfolio securities.

6. Applicants also propose using the credit facility when a sale of securities fails due to circumstances such as a delay in the delivery of cash to the Fund's custodian or improper delivery instructions by the broker effecting the transaction. Sales fails may present a cash shortfall if the Fund has undertaken to purchase a security with the proceeds from securities sold. When the Fund experiences a cash shortfall due to a sales fail, the custodian typically extends temporary credit to cover the shortfall and the Fund incurs overdraft charges. Alternatively, the Fund could sell a security on a same day settlement basis, earning a lower return on investment. Use of the credit facility under these circumstances would enable the Fund to have access to immediate short-term liquidity without incurring custodian overdraft or lower investment returns.

7. While borrowing arrangements with banks will continue to be available to cover unanticipated redemptions and sales fails, under the proposed credit facility, a borrowing Fund would pay lower interest rates than those offered by banks on short-term loans. In addition, Funds making short-term loans directly to other Funds would earn interest at a rate higher than they otherwise could obtain from investing their cash in repurchase agreements or other short-term instruments. Thus, applicants believe that the proposed credit facility would benfit both borrowing and lending Funds.

8. The interest rate charged to the Funds on any Interfund Loan (the “Interfund Loan Rate”) would be the average of the “Repo Rate” and the “Bank Loan Rate,” both as defined below. The Repo Rate for any day would be the highest rate from investments in overnight repurchase agreements that is available to a lending Fund or to a joint account in which a lending Fund may participate. The Bank Loan Rate for any day would be calculated by the Credit Facility Team (as defined below) each day an Interfund Loan is made according to a formula established by the board of trustees for the Funds (the “Board”) designed to approximate the lowest interest rate at which bank short-term loans would be available to the Funds. The formula would be based upon a publicly available rate (e.g., Federal Funds plus 25 basis points) and would vary with this rate so as to reflect changing bank loan rates. The Board periodically would review the continuing appropriateness of using the publicly available rate, as well as the relationship between the Bank Loan Rate and current bank loan rates that would be available to the Funds. The initial formula and any subsequent modifications to the formula would be subject to the approval of the Board.

9. The Treasury unit of the Administrator (the “Credit Facility Team”) would administer the credit facility. Under the proposed credit facility, the portfolio managers for each participating Fund may provide standing instructions to participate daily as a borrower or lender. The Credit Facility Team on each business day would collect data on the uninvested cash and borrowing requirements of all participating Funds from the Funds' custodian. Once it had determined the aggregate amount of cash available for loans and borrowing demand, the Credit Facility Team would allocate loans among borrowing Funds without any further communication from portfolio managers. Applicants expect far more available uninvested cash each day than borrowing demand. After the Credit Facility Team has allocated cash for Interfund Loans, the Investment Manager will invest any remaining cash in accordance with each Fund's normal practice.

10. The Credit Facility Team will allocate borrowing demand and cash available for lending among the Funds on what the Credit Facility Team believes to be an equitable basis, subject to certain administrative procedures applicable to all Funds, such as the time of filing requests to participate, minimum loan lot sizes, and the need to minimize the number of transactions and associated administrative costs. To reduce transaction costs, each loan normally would be allocated in a manner intended to minimize the number of participants necessary to complete the loan transaction. The method of allocation and related administrative procedures would be approved by the Board on behalf of each Fund, including a majority of trustees who are not “interested persons” of the Funds, as defined in section 2(a)(19) of the Act (“Independent Trustees”), to ensure that both borrowing and lending Funds participate on an equitable basis.

11. The Credit Facility Team would (a) monitor the Interfund Loan Rate and the other terms and conditions of the loans, (b) ensure compliance with each Fund's investment policies and limitations, (c) ensure equitable treatment of each Fund, and (d) make quarterly reports to the Board concerning any transactions by the Funds under the credit facility and the Interfund Loan Rate charged in the transactions.Start Printed Page 42302

12. The Credit Facility Team would administer the credit facility as part of its duties under its existing administrative services agreement with each Fund and would receive no additional fee as compensation for its services. The Investment Manager would monitor the Credit Facility Team's administration of the credit facility and would receive no additional fee as compensation for its services.

13. Each Fund's participation in the proposed credit facility will be consistent with its organizational documents and its investment policies and limitations. The Statement of Additional Information (“SAI”) of each Fund will disclose all material facts concerning the Fund's participation in Interfund Lending Agreements prior to the commencement of such arrangement and at all times during the term of the Interfund Loans. No Fund would borrow more than the lesser of the amount permitted by section 18 of the Act or the amount permitted by its investment limitations.

14. In connection with the credit facility, applicants request an order under (a) section 6(c) of the Act granting relief from sections 18(f) and 21(b) of the Act; (b) section 12(d)(1)(J) of the Act granting relief from section 12(d)(1) of the Act; (c) sections 6(c) and 17(b) of the Act granting relief from sections 17(a)(1) and 17(a)(3) of the Act; and (d) section 17(d) of the Act and rule 17d-1 under the Act to permit certain joint transactions.

Applicants' Legal Analysis

1. Section 17(a)(3) generally prohibits any affiliated person, or affiliated person of an affiliated person, from borrowing money or other property from a registered investment company. Section 21(b) generally prohibits any registered management investment company from lending money or other property to any person if that person controls or is under common control with the company. Section 2(a)(3)(C) of the Act defines “affiliated person” of another person, in part, to be any person directly or indirectly controlling, controlled by, or under common control with, the other person. Applicants state that the Funds may be under common control by virtue of having the Investment Manager as their common investment adviser.

2. Section 6(c) provides that an exemptive order may be granted where an exemption is necessary or appropriate in the public interest and consistent with the protection of investors and the purposes fairly intended by the policy and provisions of the Act. Section 17(b) authorizes the Commission to exempt a proposed transaction from section 17(a) provided that the terms of the transaction, including the consideration to be paid or received, are fair and reasonable and do not involve overreaching on the part of any person concerned, and the transaction is consistent with the policy of the investment company as recited in its registration statement and with the general purposes of the Act. Applicants believe that the proposed arrangements satisfy these standards for the reasons discussed below.

3. Applicants submit that sections 17(a)(3) and 21(b) of the Act were intended to prevent a person with strong potential adverse interests to, and some influence over the investment decisions of, a registered investment company from causing or inducing the investment company to engage in lending transactions that unfairly inure to the benefit of that person and that are detrimental to the best interests of the investment company and its shareholders. Applicants assert that the proposed credit facility transactions do not raise these concerns because (a) the Credit Facility Team would administer the program as a disinterested party; (b) the Investment Manager would monitor the Credit Facility Team's administration of the credit facility as a disinterested fiduciary; (c) all Interfund Loans would consist only of uninvested cash reserves that the Fund otherwise would invest in short-term repurchase agreements or other short-term instruments; (d) the Interfund Loans would not involve a greater risk than other similar investments; (e) the lending Fund would receive interest at a rate higher than it could obtain through other similar investments; and (f) the borrowing Fund would pay interest at a rate lower than otherwise available to it under its bank loan agreements and avoid the up-front commitment fees associated with committed lines of credit. Moreover, applicants believe that the other conditions in the application would effectively preclude the possibility of any Fund obtaining an undue advantage over any other Fund.

4. Section 17(a)(1) generally prohibits an affiliated person of a registered investment company, or an affiliated person of an affiliated person, from selling any securities or other property to the company. Section 12(d)(1) of the Act generally makes it unlawful for a registered investment company to purchase or otherwise acquire any security issued by any other investment company except in accordance with the limitations set forth in that section. Applicants believe that the obligation of a borrowing Fund to repay an Interfund Loan may constitute a security under sections 17(a)(1) and 12(d)(1). Section 12(d)(1)(J) provides that the Commission may exempt persons or transactions from any provision of section 12(d)(1) if and to the extent such exception is consistent with the public interest and the protection of investors. Applicants contend that the standards under sections 6(c), 17(b) and 12(d)(1)(J) are satisfied for all the reasons set forth above in support of their request for relief from sections 17(a)(3) and 21(b) and for the reasons discussed below.

5. Applicants state that section 12(d)(1) was intended to prevent the pyramiding of investment companies in order to avoid duplicative costs and fees attendant upon multiple layers of investment companies. Applicants submit that the proposed credit facility does not involve these abuses. Applicants note that there would be no duplicative costs or fees to the Funds or shareholders, and that the Credit Facility Team would receive no additional compensation for its services in administering the credit facility. Applicants also note that the purpose of proposed credit facility is to provide economic benefits for all the participating Funds.

6. Section 18(f)(1) prohibits open-end investment companies from issuing any senior security except that a company is permitted to borrow from any bank; provided that, immediately after the borrowing, there is an asset coverage of at least 300 per centum for all borrowings of the company. Under section 18(g) of the Act, the term “senior security” includes any bond, debenture, note, or similar obligation or instrument constituting a security and evidencing indebtedness. Applicants request exemptive relief from section 18(f)(1) to the limited extent necessary to implement the credit facility (because the lending Funds are not banks).

7. Applicants believe that granting the relief under section 6(c) is appropriate because the Funds would remain subject to the requirement of section 18(f)(1) that all borrowings of the Fund, including combined credit facility and bank borrowings, have at least 300% asset coverage. Based on the conditions and safeguards described in the application, applicants also submit that to allow the Funds to borrow from other Funds pursuant to the proposed credit facility is consistent with the purposes and policies of section 18(f)(1).

8. Section 17(d) and rule 17d-1 generally prohibit any affiliated person of a registered investment company, or affiliated persons of an affiliated person, when acting as principal, from effecting Start Printed Page 42303any joint transaction in which the company participates unless the transaction is approved by the Commission. Rule 17d-1 provides that in passing upon applications for exemptive relief, the Commission will consider whether the participation of a registered investment company in a joint enterprise on the basis proposed is consistent with the provisions, policies, and purposes of the Act and the extent to which the company's participation is on a basis different from or less advantageous than that of other participants.

9. Applicants submit that the purpose of section 17(d) is to avoid overreaching by and unfair advantage to investment company insiders. Applicants believe that the credit facility is consistent with the provisions, policies and purposes of the Act in that it offers both reduced borrowing costs and enhanced returns on loaned funds to all participating Funds and their shareholders. Applicants note that each Fund would have an equal opportunity to borrow and lend on equal terms consistent with its investment policies and fundamental investment limitations. Applicants therefore believe that each Fund's participation in the credit facility will be on terms that are no different from or less advantageous than that of other participating Funds.

Applicants' Conditions

Applicants agree that the order granting the requested relief will be subject to the following conditions:

1. The Interfund Loan Rate to be charged to the Funds under the credit facility will be the average of the Repo Rate and the Bank Loan Rate, adjusted daily.

2. On each business day, the Credit Facility Team will compare the Bank Loan Rate with the Repo Rate and will make cash available for Interfund Loans only if the Interfund Loan Rate is (a) more favorable to the lending Fund than the Repo Rate, and (b) more favorable to the borrowing Fund than the Bank Loan Rate.

3. If a Fund has outstanding borrowings, any Interfund Loans to the Fund (a) will be at an interest rate equal to or lower than any outstanding bank loan, (b) will be secured at least on an equal priority basis with at least an equivalent percentage of collateral to loan value as any outstanding bank loan that requires collateral, (c) will have a maturity no longer than any outstanding bank loan (and in any event not over seven days), and (d) will provide that, if an event of default occurs under any agreement evidencing an outstanding bank loan to the Fund, the event of default will automatically (without need for action or notice by the lending Fund) constitute an immediate event of default under the Interfund Lending Agreement entitling the lending Fund to call the Interfund Loan (and exercise all rights with respect to any collateral) and that such call will be made if the lending bank exercises its right to call its loan under its agreement with the borrowing Fund.

4. A Fund may make an unsecured borrowing through the credit facility if its outstanding borrowings from all sources immediately after the interfund borrowing total 10% or less of its total assets; provided, that if the Fund has a secured loan outstanding from any other lender, including but not limited to another Fund, the Fund's interfund borrowing will be secured on at least an equal priority basis with at least an equivalent percentage of collateral to loan value as any outstanding loan that requires collateral. If a Fund's total outstanding borrowings immediately after an interfund borrowing would be greater than 10% of its total assets, the Fund may borrow through the credit facility on a secured basis only. A Fund may not borrow through the credit facility or from any other source if its total outstanding borrowings immediately after the interfund borrowing would exceed the limits imposed by section 18 of the Act.

5. Before any Fund that has outstanding interfund borrowings may, through additional borrowings, cause its outstanding borrowings from all sources to exceed 10% of its total assets, the Fund must first secure each outstanding Interfund Loan by the pledge of segregated collateral with a market value at least equal to 102% of the outstanding principal value of the loan. If the total outstanding borrowings of a Fund with outstanding Interfund Loans exceed 10% of its total assets for any other reason (such as a decline in net asset value or because of shareholder redemptions), the Fund will within one business day thereafter (a) repay all its outstanding Interfund Loans, (b) reduce its outstanding indebtedness to 10% or less of its total assets, or (c) secure each outstanding Interfund Loan by the pledge of segregated collateral with a market value at least equal to 102% of the outstanding principal value of the loan until the Fund's total outstanding borrowings cease to exceed 10% of its total assets, at which time the collateral called for by this condition (5) shall no longer be required. Until each Interfund Loan that is outstanding at any time that a Fund's total outstanding borrowings exceeds 10% is repaid or the Fund's total outstanding borrowings cease to exceed 10% of its total assets, the Credit Facility Team will mark the value of the collateral to market each day and the Fund will pledge such additional collateral as is necessary to maintain the market value of the collateral that secures each outstanding Interfund Loan at least equal to 102% of the outstanding principal value of the loan.

6. No Fund may lend to another Fund through the credit facility if the loan would cause its aggregate outstanding loans through the credit facility to exceed 15% of the lending Fund's net assets at the time of the loan.

7. A Fund's Interfund Loans to any one Fund shall not exceed 5% of the lending Fund's net assets.

8. The duration of Interfund Loans will be limited to the time required to receive payment for securities sold, but in no event more than seven days. Loans effected within seven days of each other will be treated as separate loan transactions for purposes of this condition.

9. Each Interfund Loan may be called on one business day's notice by a lending Fund and may be repaid on any day by a borrowing Fund.

10. A Fund's participation in the credit facility must be consistent with its investment policies and limitations and organizational documents. A Fund's borrowings through the credit facility, as measured on the day when the most recent loan was made, will not exceed the greater of 125% of the Fund's total net cash redemptions and 102% of sales fails for the preceding seven calendar days.

11. The Credit Facility Team will calculate total Fund borrowing and lending demand through the credit facility, and allocate loans on an equitable basis among the Funds without the intervention of any portfolio manager of the Funds. The Credit Facility Team will not solicit cash for the credit facility from any Fund or prospectively publish or disseminate loan demand data to portfolio managers. The Investment Manager will invest any amounts remaining after satisfaction of borrowing demand in accordance with its normal practice.

12. The Credit Facility Team will monitor the Interfund Loan Rates charged and the other terms and conditions of the Interfund Loans and will make a quarterly report to the Board concerning the participation of the Funds in the credit facility and the terms and other conditions of any extensions of credit under the facility.

13. The Board of each Fund, including a majority of the Independent Trustees: (a) Will review no less frequently than quarterly the Fund's Start Printed Page 42304participation in the credit facility during the preceding quarter for compliance with the conditions of any order permitting the transactions; (b) will establish the Bank Loan Rate formula used to determine the Interfund Loan Rate and review no less frequently than annually the continuing appropriateness of the Bank Loan Rate formula; and (c) will review no less frequently than annually the continuing appropriateness of the Fund's participation in the credit facility.

14. In the event an Interfund Loan is not paid according to its terms and the default is not cured within two business days from its maturity or from the time the lending Fund makes a demand for payment under the provisions of the Interfund Lending Agreement, the Credit Facility Team will promptly refer the loan for arbitration to an independent arbitrator selected by the Board of any Fund involved in the loan who will serve as arbitrator of disputes concerning Interfund Loans.[2] The arbitrator will resolve any problem promptly, and the arbitrator's decision will be binding on both Funds. The arbitrator will submit at least annually a written report to the Board setting forth a description of the nature of any dispute and the actions taken by the Funds to resolve the dispute.

15. Each Fund will maintain and preserve for a period of not less than six years from the end of the fiscal year in which any transaction under the credit facility occurred, the first two years in an easily accessible place, written records of all such transactions setting forth a description of the terms of the transaction, including the amount, the maturity, and the rate of interest on the loan, the rate of interest available at the time on short-term repurchase agreements and bank borrowings, and such other information presented to the Fund's Board in connection with the review required by conditions 12 and 13.

16. The Credit Facility Team will prepare and submit to the Board for review an initial report describing the operations of the credit facility and the procedures to be implemented to ensure that all Funds are treated fairly. After the commencement of operations of the credit facility, the Credit Facility Team will report on the operations of the credit facility at the Board's quarterly meetings.

In addition, for two years following the commencement of the credit facility, an independent public accountant for each Fund shall prepare an annual report that evaluates the Credit Facility Team's assertion that it has established procedures reasonably designed to achieve compliance with the conditions of the order. The report shall be prepared in accordance with the Statements on Standards for Attestation Engagements No. 3 and it shall be filed pursuant to item 77Q3 of Form N-SAR. In particular, the report shall address procedures designed to achieve the following objectives: (a) That the Interfund Loan Rate will be higher than the Repo Rate, but lower than the Bank Loan Rate; (b) compliance with the collateral requirements as set forth in the application; (c) compliance with the percentage limitations on interfund borrowing and lending; (d) allocation of interfund borrowing and lending demand in an equitable manner and in accordance with procedures established by the Board; and (e) that the Interfund Loan Rate does not exceed the interest rate on any third party borrowings of a borrowing Fund at the time of the Interfund Loan.

After the final report is filed, the Fund's external auditors, in connection with their Fund audit examinations, will continue to review the operation of the credit facility for compliance with the conditions of the application and their review will form the basis, in part, of the auditor's report on internal accounting controls in Form N-SAR.

17. No Fund will participate in the credit facility upon receipt of requisite regulatory approval unless it has fully disclosed in its SAI all material facts about its intended participation.

Start Signature

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

Jill M. Peterson,

Assistant Secretary.

End Signature End Supplemental Information

Footnotes

1.  All existing investment companies that currently intend to rely on the order are named as applicants, and any other existing or future investment companies that subsequently rely on the order will comply with the terms and conditions of the application.

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2.  If the dispute involves Funds with separate Boards, the Board of each Fund will select an independent arbitrator that is satisfactory to each Fund.

Back to Citation

[FR Doc. 02-15707 Filed 6-20-02; 8:45 am]

BILLING CODE 8010-01-P