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Notice

MLIG Variable Insurance Trust, et al.; Notice of Application

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Start Preamble Start Printed Page 66432 October 24, 2002.

AGENCY:

Securities and Exchange Commission (“Commission”).

ACTION:

Notice of 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 18-2 under the Act.

SUMMARY OF APPLICATION:

Applicants request an order that would permit them to enter into and materially amend subadvisory agreements without shareholder approval.

APPLICANTS:

MLIG Variable Insurance Trust (the “Trust”) and Roszel Advisors, LLC (the “Adviser”).

FILING DATES:

The application was filed on May 15, 2002 and amended on October 23, 2002.

HEARING OR NOTIFICATION OF HEARING:

An order granting the requested relief 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 November 18, 2002 and should be accompanied by proof of service on 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 Fifth Street, NW., Washington, DC 20549-0609. Applicants, Barry G. Skolnick, Esq., Merrill Lynch Insurance Group, Inc., 7 Roszel Road, Princeton, NJ 08540.

Start Further Info

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT;

Jaea F. Hahn, Senior Counsel, at (202) 942-0614, or Todd F. Kuehl, Branch Chief, at (202) 942-0564 (Office of Investment Company Regulation, Division of Investment Management).

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 Fifth Street NW., Washington, DC 20549-0102 (tel. (202) 942-8090).

Applicants' Representations

1. The Trust is a Delaware business trust registered under the Act as an open-end management investment company. The Trust is comprised of twenty-seven separate series (each a “Portfolio”, and collectively, the “Portfolios”), each with its own investment objectives and policies.[1] Shares representing interests in each Portfolio are offered solely to separate accounts of Merrill Lynch Life Insurance Company (“MLLIC”) and Merrill Lynch Life Insurance Company of New York (“MLLICNY”) as funding vehicles for certain variable annuity insurance contracts issued by them, and may, in the future, be offered as funding vehicles to separate accounts for variable annuity contracts or variable life insurance contracts issued by MLLIC, MLLICNY or other insurance companies.

2. The Adviser, a Delaware limited liability company, is registered as an investment adviser under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 (“Advisers Act”). The Trust has entered into an investment advisory agreement with the Adviser with respect to each of the Portfolios (the “Management Agreement”), which was approved by the board of trustees of the Trust (“Board”), including a majority of the trustees who are not “interested persons” as defined in section 2(a)(19) of the Act (the “Independent Trustees”), and by each Portfolio's shareholders. Under the terms of the Management Agreement, the Adviser manages the assets of the Portfolios and may hire one or more subadvisers (“Subadvisers”) to exercise day-to-day portfolio management of each of the Portfolios pursuant to separate investment advisory agreements (“Subadvisory Agreements”). All current and future Subadvisers will be registered or exempt from registration under the Advisers Act. The Adviser selects each Subadviser, subject to approval by the respective Board, and compensates each Subadviser out of the fees paid to the Adviser by the Portfolio.

3. The Adviser monitors the performance of each Subadviser and the Portfolio as a whole and makes recommendations to the Board regarding allocation, and reallocation, of assets between Subadvisers. The Adviser also 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.

4. Applicants request an order to permit the Adviser, subject to the oversight of the Board, to enter into and materially amend Subadvisory Agreements without shareholder approval. The requested relief will not extend to a 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 Portfolios (“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 under a written contract that has been approved by the vote of a majority 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, if such 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. Applicants believe the requested relief meets this standard for the reasons discussed below.

3. Applicants assert that each Portfolio's shareholders are relying on the Adviser's experience to select, monitor and replace Subadvisers. Applicants assert that, from the perspective of the shareholder, the role of the Subadvisers is comparable to that of individual portfolio managers employed by other investment advisory firms. Applicants contend that requiring shareholder approval of Subadvisory Agreements would impose costs and unnecessary delays on the Portfolios, and may preclude the Adviser from Start Printed Page 66433acting promptly in a manner considered advisable by the Board. Applicants note that the Management Agreement will remain subject to the shareholder approval requirements of 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 Portfolio may rely on the requested order, the operation of the Portfolio in the manner described in the application will be approved by a majority of the Portfolio's outstanding voting securities (or, if the Portfolio serves as a funding medium for any sub-account of a registered separate account, pursuant to voting instructions provided by the owners of variable annuity and variable life insurance contracts (“Owners”) who have allocated assets to that sub-account), or in the case of a Portfolio whose public shareholders (or Owners through a sub-account of a registered separate account) purchase shares on the basis of a prospectus containing the disclosure contemplated by condition 2 below, by the sole initial shareholder(s) before the shares of such Portfolio are offered to the public (or to Owners through a sub-account of a registered separate account).

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

3. Within 90 days of the hiring of any new Subadviser, the Adviser will furnish the shareholders of the relevant Portfolio (or, if the Portfolio serves as a funding medium for a sub-account of a registered separate account, the Owners who have allocated assets to that sub-account) all information about the new Subadviser that would be included in a proxy statement. To meet this condition, the Adviser will provide the shareholders (or Owners, if the Portfolio serves as a funding medium for any sub-account of a registered separate account) with an information statement meeting the requirements of Regulation 14C and Schedule 14C under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as well as the requirements of Item 22 of Schedule 14A under that Act.

4. The Adviser will not enter into a Subadvisory Agreement with an Affiliated Subadviser without such Subadvisory Agreement, including the compensation to be paid thereunder, being approved by the shareholders of the applicable Portfolio (or, if the Portfolio serves as a funding medium for any sub-account of a registered separate account, then pursuant to voting instructions of the Owners who have allocated assets to that sub-account).

5. At all times, a majority of the Board will be Independent Trustees, and the nomination of new or additional Independent Trustees will be placed within the discretion of the then existing Independent Trustees.

6. When a change of Subadviser is proposed for a Portfolio with an Affiliated Subadviser, the Board, including a majority of the Independent Trustees, will make a separate finding, reflected in the Board minutes, that such change of Subadviser is in the best interests of the Portfolio and its shareholders (or, if the Portfolio serves as a funding medium for any sub-account of a registered separate account, in the best interests of the Portfolio and the Owners who have allocated assets to the sub-account) and that the change does not involve a conflict of interest from which the Adviser or the Affiliated Subadviser derives an inappropriate advantage.

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

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 such director, trustee or officer) any interest in a Subadviser except for ownership of (a) interests in the Adviser or any entity that controls, is controlled by, or is under common control with the Adviser; or (b) less than 1% of the outstanding securities of any class of equity or debt of a publicly-traded company that is either a Subadviser or an entity that controls, is controlled by, or is under common control with a Subadviser.

Start Signature

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

Margaret H. McFarland,

Deputy Secretary.

End Signature End Supplemental Information

Footnotes

1.  Applicants request that any relief granted pursuant to the application also apply to future Portfolios of the Trust, and any other registered open-end management investment company or series thereof that: (a) is advised by the Adviser or a person controlling, controlled by, or under common control with the Adviser; (b) is managed in a manner consistent with the application; and (c) complies with the terms and conditions of the requested order (“Future Portfolios”, included in the term “Portfolios”). All entities that currently intend to rely on the requested relief are named as applicants. If the name of any Portfolio should, at any time, contain the name of a 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. 02-27662 Filed 10-30-02; 8:45 am]

BILLING CODE 8010-01-P