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Notice

Vision Group of Funds, et al.

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AGENCY:

Securities and Exchange Commission (“Commission”).

ACTION:

Notice of an application for an order under section 6(c) of the Investment Company Act of 1940 (the “Act”) for an exemption from section 15(a) of the Act and rule 18f-2 under the Act.

Summary of the Application: The order would permit applicants to enter into and materially amend subadvisory agreements without shareholder approval.

Applicants: Vision Group of Funds (the “Trust”) and Manufacturers and Traders Trust Company (“M&T”).

Filing Dates: The application was filed on April 4, 2001 and amended on June 27, 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 the 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 23, 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 C. Grant Anderson, Esq., Federated Services Company, Federated Investors Tower, 1001 Liberty Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15222-3779.

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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).

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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, a Delaware business trust, is registered under the Act as an open-end management investment company. The Trust currently offers eighteen series (“Funds”), each of which has its own investment objectives, policies and restrictions. M&T Asset Management (the “Adviser”), a department of M&T, is registered under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 (the “Advisers Act”), and serves as the investment adviser to the Funds. M&T is a national banking association and is wholly owned by M&T Bank Corporation, a bank holding company.

2. Applicants also request relief with respect to any existing or future registered open-end management investment company or series thereof that (a) is advised by the Adviser or any entity controlling, controlled by or under common control with the Adviser; (b) uses the adviser/subadviser structure that is described in the application; and (c) complies with the terms and conditions in the application (together with any current or future series of the Trust, the “Funds”).

3. The Adviser serves as the investment adviser to each Fund pursuant to an investment advisory agreement with the Trust (“Advisory Agreement”) that was approved by the board of trustees of the Trust (the Start Printed Page 44887“Board”), including a majority of the trustees who are not “interested persons,” as defined in section 2(a)(19) of the Act (“Independent Trustees”), and the shareholders of each Fund. Under the terms of the Advisory Agreement, the Adviser manages the investment of assets of each Fund and may, subject to oversight by the Board, hire one or more subadvisers (“Subadvisers”) to provide portfolio management services to each of the Funds pursuant to separate investment advisory agreements (“Subadvisory Agreements”). Each Subadviser is an investment adviser registered under the Advisers Act. Subadvisers are recommended to the Board by the Adviser and selected and approved by the Board, including a majority of the Independent Trustees. Each Subadviser's fees are paid by the Adviser out of the management fees received by the Adviser from the respective Fund.[1]

4. The Adviser monitors the Funds and the Subadvisers and makes recommendations to the Board regarding allocation, and reallocation, of assets between Subadvisers and is responsible for recommending the hiring, termination and replacement of Subadvisers. The Adviser recommends Subadvisers based on a number of factors used to evaluate their skills in managing assets pursuant to particular investment objectives.

5. Applicants request relief to permit the Adviser, subject to the Board's approval, to enter into and materially amend Subadvisory Agreements without shareholder approval. The requested relief would not extend to any Subadviser that is an affiliated person, as defined in section 2(a)(3) of the Act, of the Trust or the Adviser, other than by reason of serving as a Subadviser to one or more of the Funds (an “Affiliated Subadviser”).

Applicants' Legal Analysis

1. Section 15(a) of the Act provides, in relevant part, that it is unlawful for any person to act as an investment adviser to a registered investment company except pursuant to a written contract that has been approved by the vote of the company's outstanding voting securities. Rule 18f-2 under the act provides that each series or class of stock in a series company affected by a matter must approve such matter if the Act requires shareholder approval.

2. Section 6(c) of the Act provides that the Commission may exempt any person, security, or transaction or any class or classes of persons, securities, or transactions from any provision of the Act, or from any rule thereunder, to the extent that the exemption is necessary or appropriate in the public interest and consistent with the protection of investors and the purposes fairly intended by the policies and provisions of the Act. Applicants state that the requested relief meets this standard for the reasons discussed below.

3. Applicants assert that the Funds' shareholders rely on the Adviser to select the Subadvisers best suited to achieve a Fund's investment objectives. Applicants assert that, from the perspective of the investor, the role of the Subadvisers is comparable to that of individual portfolio managers employed by other investment advisory firms. Applicants submit that the requested relief will reduce the Funds' expenses associated with shareholder meetings and proxy solicitations, and enable the Funds to operate more efficiently. Applicants also note that the Advisory Agreement will remain subject to section 15(a) of the Act and rule 18f-2 under the Act.

Applicants' Conditions

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

1. Before a Fund may rely on the requested order, the operation of the Fund, as described in the application, will be approved by the vote of a majority of the Fund's outstanding voting securities, as defined in the Act, or in the case of a Fund whose public shareholders purchased shares on the basis of a prospectus containing the disclosure contemplated by condition 2 below, by the initial shareholders before offering shares of that Fund to the public.

2. Each Fund relying on the requested relief will disclose in its prospectus the existence, substance, and effect of any order granted pursuant to the application. In addition, each Fund will hold itself out to the public as employing the management structure described in the application. The prospectus will prominently disclose that the Adviser has ultimate responsibility, subject to review of the Board, to monitor and evaluate Subadvisers and recommend their hiring, termination and replacement.

3. At all times, a majority of the Board will be Independent Trustees, and the nomination of new or additional Independent Trustees will be at the discretion of the then-existing Independent Trustees.

4. The Adviser will not enter into a Subadvisory Agreement with an Affiliated Subadviser without that agreement, including the compensation to be paid under it, being approved by the shareholders of the applicable Fund.

5. When a Subadviser change is proposed for a Fund with an Affiliated Subadviser, the Board, including a majority of the Independent Trustees, will make a separate finding, reflected in the Trust's Board minutes, that the change is in the best interests of the Fund and its shareholders, and does not involve a conflict of interest from which the Adviser or the Affiliated Subadviser derives an inappropriate advantage.

6. Within 90 days of the hiring of a new Subadviser, the Adviser will furnish shareholders of the affected Fund with the information about the Subadviser that would be included in a proxy statement. The information will include any changes caused by the addition of the new Subadviser. The Adviser will meet this condition by providing shareholders of the applicable Fund with an information statement meeting the requirements of Regulation 14C, Schedule 14C, and Item 22 of Schedule 14A under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.

7. The Adviser will provide general management services to the Funds including overall supervisory responsibility for the general management and investment of each Fund's securities portfolio and, subject to review and approval by the Board, will (a) set each Fund's overall investment strategies; (b) evaluate, select, and recommend Subadvisers to manage all or a part of a Fund's assets; (c) when appropriate, allocate and reallocate the Fund's assets among multiple Subadvisers; (d) monitor and evaluate the performance of the Subadvisers; and (e) implement procedures reasonably designed to ensure that the Subadvisers comply with the Fund's investment objectives, restrictions and policies.

8. No trustee or officer of the Trust or director or officer of the Adviser will own, directly or indirectly (other than through a pooled investment vehicle that is not controlled by any such director, trustee, or officer), any interest in a Subadviser except for: (a) Ownership of interests in the Adviser or any entity that controls, is controlled by, or under common control with the Adviser, or (b) ownership of less than 1% of the outstanding securities of any class of equity or debt securities of any publicly traded company that is either Start Printed Page 44888a Subadviser or an entity that controls, is controlled by, or is under common control with a Subadviser.

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

Jill M. Peterson,

Assistant Secretary.

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Footnotes

1.  The Trust is the only existing investment company that currently intends to rely on the order. Applicants represent that if the name of any Fund contains the name of a Subadviser that is not an Affiliated Subadviser as defined below, it will also contain the name of the Adviser, which will appear before the name of the Subadviser.

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[FR Doc. 02-16845 Filed 7-3-02; 8:45 am]

BILLING CODE 8010-01-P