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Proposed Collection; Comment Request

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Upon Written Request, Copies Available From: Securities and Exchange Commission, Office of Filings and Information Services, 450 Fifth Street, NW., Washington, DC 20549.

Extension: Rule 17f-6 (17 CFR 270.17f-6), SEC File No. 270-392, OMB Control No. 3235-0447.

Notice is hereby given that, pursuant to the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 U.S.C. 3501-3520), the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “Commission”) is soliciting comments on the collection of information summarized below. The Commission plans to submit this existing collection of information to the Office of Management and Budget for extension and approval.

Rule 17f-6 under the Investment Company Act of 1940 (17 CFR 270.17f-6) permits registered investment companies (“funds”) to maintain assets (i.e., margin) with futures commission merchants (“FCMs”) in connection with commodity transactions effected on both domestic and foreign exchanges.[1] Prior to the rule's adoption, funds generally were required to maintain these assets in special accounts with a custodian bank.

The rule requires a written contract that contains certain provisions to ensure important safeguards and other benefits relating to the custody of fund assets by FCMs. The requirement that FCMs comply with the segregation or secured amount requirements of the Commodity Exchange Act (“CEA”) and the rules under that statute is designed to protect fund assets held by FCMs. The contract requirement that an FCM obtain an acknowledgment from an entity that clears fund transactions that the fund's assets are held on behalf of the FCM's customers according to CEA provisions seeks to accommodate the legitimate needs of the participants in the commodity settlement process, consistent with the protection of fund assets. Finally, FCMs are required to furnish to the Commission or its staff on request information concerning the fund's assets in order to facilitate Commission inspections of funds.

The Commission estimates that approximately 2,154 funds effect commodities transactions and could deposit margin with FCMs under rule 17f-6 in connection with those transactions. Commission staff estimates that each fund uses and deposits margin with 2 different FCMs in connection with its commodity transactions.[2] Approximately 179 FCMs are eligible to hold fund margin under the rule.[3] The Commission estimates that each of the 2,154 funds spend an average of 1 hour annually complying with the contract requirements of the rule (e.g., executing contracts that contain the requisite provisions with additional FCMs), for a total of 2,154 burden hours. The estimate does not include the time required by an FCM to comply with the rule's contract requirements because, to the extent that complying with the contract provisions could be considered “collections of information,” the burden hours for compliance are already included in other PRA submissions or are de minimis.[4] The estimate of average Start Printed Page 48420burden hours is made solely for the purposes of the Paperwork Reduction Act, and is not derived from a comprehensive or even a representative survey or study of the costs of Commission rules and forms.

Written comments are invited on: (a) Whether the collection of information is necessary for the proper performance of the functions of the Commission, including whether the information has practical utility; (b) the accuracy of the Commission's estimate of the burden of the collection of information; (c) ways to enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information collected; and (d) ways to minimize the burden of the collection of information on respondents, including through the use of automated collection techniques or other forms of information technology. The Commission will consider comments and suggestions submitted in writing within 60 days after this publication.

Please direct your written comments to Kenneth A. Fogash, Acting Associate Executive Director/CIO, Office of Information Technology, Securities and Exchange Commission, 450 5th Street, NW., Washington, DC 20549.

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Dated: July 31, 2003.

Margaret H. McFarland,

Deputy Secretary.

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1.  Custody of Investment Company Assets With Futures Commission Merchants and Commodity Clearing Organizations, Investment Company Act Release No. 22389 (Dec. 11, 1996) [61 FR 66207 (Dec. 17, 1996)].

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2.  This estimate is based on information conversations with representatives of the fund industry.

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3.  Commodity Futures Trading Commission, Annual Report (2002).

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4.  The rule requires a contract with the FCM to contain three provisions. Two of the provisions require the FCM to comply with existing requirements under the CEA and rules adopted under that Act. Thus, to the extent these provisions could be considered collections of information, the hours required for compliance would be included in the collection of information burden hours submitted by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission for its rules. The third contract provision requires that the FCM produce records or other information requested by the Commission or its staff. Commission staff has requested this type of information from an FCM so infrequently in the past that the annual burden hours are de minimis.

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[FR Doc. 03-20542 Filed 8-12-03; 8:45 am]