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Notice

Wells Fargo Funds Trust, et al.; Notice of Application

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Start Preamble May 1, 2006.

AGENCY:

Securities and Exchange Commission.

ACTION:

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

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 (“Credit Facility”).

Applicants:

Wells Fargo Funds Trust (“Funds Trust”), Wells Fargo Variable Trust (“Variable Trust”), and Wells Fargo Master Trust (“Master Trust”) (collectively, the “Trusts”) and Wells Fargo Funds Management, LLC (“Funds Management”).

Filing Dates:

The application was filed on May 14, 2003 and amended on April 27, 2006.

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 May 26, 2006, 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, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, 100 F Street, NE., Washington, DC 20549-1090. Applicants, 525 Market Street, 12th Floor, San Francisco, California 94105.

Start Further Info

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Jaea F. Hahn, Senior Counsel, at (202) 551-Start Printed Page 267916870, or Nadya B. Roytblat, Assistant Director, at (202) 551-6821 (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, 100 F Street, NE., Washington, DC 20549-0102 (tel. 202-551-5850).

Applicants' Representations

1. Each Trust is registered under the Act as an open-end management investment company and is organized as a Delaware business trust.[1] Responsibility for the overall management of the Trusts rests with each Trust's respective board of trustees (each, a “Board”). Funds Management is registered under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940. Funds Management serves as investment adviser to the Funds. An existing Commission order permits certain Funds that are not money market Funds to invest uninvested cash balances in one or more money market Funds that comply with rule 2a-7 under the Act (“Money Market Funds”).[2]

2. Some Funds may lend money to banks or other entities by entering into repurchase agreements or other short-term instruments. Other Funds may borrow money from the same or similar banks or other entities for temporary purposes to satisfy redemption requests, to cover unanticipated cash shortfalls such as a trade “fail” in which cash payment for a security sold by a Fund has been delayed, or for other temporary purposes. Currently, the Funds have an overdraft provision with their custodian bank and committed lines of credit.

3. If the Funds were to borrow money from their custodian bank or through their lines of credit, the Funds would pay interest on the borrowed cash at a rate that would be 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 state that this differential represents the profit the banks would earn for serving as a middleman between a borrower and a lender. In addition, while bank borrowings generally could supply needed cash to cover unanticipated redemptions and sales fails, the borrowing Funds would incur fees, interest and/or other charges involved in obtaining a bank loan.

4. Applicants request an order that would permit the Funds to enter into master interfund lending agreements (“Interfund Lending Agreements”) that would permit each Fund to lend money directly to and borrow directly from other Funds (“Interfund Loan”). Applicants believe that the Credit Facility would reduce the Funds' potential borrowing costs and enhance their ability to earn higher rates of interest on short-term lendings. Although the Credit Facility would reduce the Funds' need to borrow from banks, the Funds would be free to establish and/or continue committed lines of credit or other borrowing arrangements with banks.

5. Applicants anticipate that the Credit Facility would provide a borrowing Fund with cost 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 paid 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 beyond a Fund's control, 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 fail on its intended purchase due to lack of funds from the previous sale, resulting in additional costs to the Fund, or sell a security on a same day settlement basis, earning a lower return on the 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 other charges.

7. While bank borrowings could generally supply needed cash to cover unanticipated redemptions and sales fails, under the 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 cash loans directly to other Funds would earn interest at a rate higher than they otherwise could obtain from investing their cash balances in repurchase agreements or in short-term investments. Thus, applicants believe that the Credit Facility would benefit 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 on any day would be the highest rate available to the Funds from investments in overnight repurchase agreements. The Bank Loan Rate for any day would be calculated by the Interfund Lending Committee, as defined below, on each day an Interfund Loan is made according to a formula approved by the Boards intended 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. Each Board periodically would review the continuing appropriateness of using the publicly available rate used to determine the Bank Loan 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 each Board.

9. The Credit Facility would be administered by investment professionals and administrative personnel from Funds Management (the “Interfund Lending Committee”). No portfolio manager of any Fund will serve as a member of the Interfund Lending Committee. Under the Credit Facility, the portfolio managers for each participating Fund could provide Start Printed Page 26792standing instructions to participate daily as a borrower or lender. On each business day, the Interfund Lending Committee would collect data on the uninvested cash and borrowing requirements of all participating Funds from the Funds' custodian(s). The Money Market Funds would not participate as borrowers. Once it has determined the aggregate amount of cash available for loans and borrowing demand, the Interfund Lending Committee 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 allocating cash for Interfund Loans, the Interfund Lending Committee will invest any remaining cash in accordance with the standing instructions of portfolio managers or return remaining amounts for investment directly by the portfolio manager of the applicable Fund.

10. The Interfund Lending Committee would allocate borrowing demand and cash available for lending among the Funds on what the Interfund Lending Committee 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 sizes, and the need to minimize the number of transactions and associated administrative costs. To reduce transaction costs, each Interfund Loan normally would be allocated in a manner intended to minimize the number of participants necessary to complete the loan transaction.

11. The Interfund Lending Committee would (a) monitor the interest rates charged and the other terms and conditions of the loans, (b) limit the borrowings and loans entered into by each Fund to ensure that they comply with the Fund's investment policies and limitations, (c) ensure equitable treatment of each Fund, and (d) make quarterly reports to each Board concerning any transactions by the Funds under the Credit Facility and the interest rates charged. The method of allocation and related administrative procedures would be approved by each Board, including a majority of trustees who are not “interested persons” of the Fund, 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.

12. Funds Management, through the Interfund Lending Committee, would administer the Credit Facility as part of its duties under its advisory contract and administrative contract with each Fund and would receive no compensation for its services.

13. No Fund may participate in the Credit Facility unless (a) the Fund has obtained shareholder approval for its participation, if such approval is required by law, (b) the Fund has fully disclosed all material information concerning the Credit Facility in its prospectus and/or statement of additional information (“SAI”), and (c) the Fund's participation in the Credit Facility is consistent with its organizational documents and its investment policies and 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 arrangements.

Applicants' Legal Analysis

1. Section 17(a)(3) of the Act 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 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 an “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 Funds Management as their common investment adviser, and\or by reason of having common officers and/or trustees.

2. Section 6(c) of the Act 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 Credit Facility transactions do not raise these concerns because (a) Funds Management, through the Interfund Lending Committee, would administer the program as a disinterested fiduciary; (b) all Interfund Loans would consist only of uninvested cash reserves that a Fund otherwise would invest in short-term repurchase agreements or other short-term instruments; (c) the Interfund Loans would not involve a greater risk than such other investments; (d) the lending Fund would receive interest at a rate higher than it could obtain through such other investments; and (e) 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) of the Act 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 state 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) of the Act. Section 12(d)(1)(J) of the Act provides that the Commission may exempt persons or transactions from any provision of section 12(d)(1) if and to the extent such exemption 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) of the Act are satisfied for all the reasons set forth above in support of their request for relief from sections 17(a)(3) and Start Printed Page 2679321(b) of the Act and for the reasons discussed below.

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

6. Section 18(f)(1) of the Act prohibits open-end investment companies from issuing any senior security except that a company is permitted to borrow from any bank, if immediately after the borrowing, there is an asset coverage of at least 300% 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 relief under section 6(c) of the Act is appropriate because the Funds would remain subject to the requirement of section 18(f)(1) of the Act that all borrowings of a Fund, including combined interfund 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 Credit Facility is consistent with the purposes and policies of section 18(f)(1) of the Act.

8. Section 17(d) of the Act and rule 17d-1 under the Act generally prohibit any affiliated person of a registered investment company, or affiliated person of an affiliated person, when acting as principal, from effecting any joint transaction in which the company participates unless the transaction is approved by the Commission. Rule 17d-1 provides that in passing upon applications filed under the rule, 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 would be on terms no different from or less advantageous than that of other participating Funds.

Applicants' Conditions

Applicants agree that any 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.

2. On each business day, the Interfund Lending Committee 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, that 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 be more than 331/3% of its total assets.

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 exceeds 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 Fund will mark the value of the collateral to market each day and 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 Start Printed Page 26794exceed 15% of its 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. 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 or 102% of sales fails for the preceding seven calendar days.

10. 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.

11. A Fund's participation in the Credit Facility must be consistent with its investment policies and limitations and organizational documents.

12. The Interfund Lending Committee 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 Interfund Lending Committee will not solicit cash for the Credit Facility from any Fund or prospectively publish or disseminate loan demand data to portfolio managers. The Interfund Lending Committee will invest any amounts remaining after satisfaction of borrowing demand in accordance with the standing instructions from portfolio managers or return remaining amounts to Funds for investment directly by the Funds.

13. The Interfund Lending Committee will monitor the interest rates charged and the other terms and conditions of the Interfund Loans and will make a quarterly report to the Board of each Fund concerning the participation of the Fund in the Credit Facility and the terms and other conditions of any extensions of credit under the facility.

14. The Boards of the Funds, including a majority of the Independent Trustees: (a) will review no less frequently than quarterly each Fund's participation in the Credit Facility during the preceding quarter for compliance with the conditions of any order permitting such transactions; (b) will establish the Bank Loan Rate formula used to determine the interest rate on Interfund Loans, approve any modifications thereto, 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.

15. 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 Interfund Lending Committee will promptly refer such loan for arbitration to an independent arbitrator selected by the Board of any Fund involved in the loan who will serve as the arbitrator of disputes concerning Interfund Loans.[3] 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 of each Fund setting forth a description of the nature of any dispute and the actions taken by the Funds to resolve the dispute.

16. 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 13 and 14.

17. The Interfund Lending Committee will prepare and submit to the Boards 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 operation of the Credit Facility, the Interfund Lending Committee will report on the operations of the Credit Facility at the quarterly meetings of each Fund's Board. In addition, for two years following the commencement of the Credit Facility, the independent public accountant for each Fund shall prepare an annual report that evaluates the Interfund Lending Committee'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. 10 and it shall be filed pursuant to Item 77Q3 of Form N-SAR, as such Statements or Form may be revised, amended, or superseded from time to time. 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 each Board; and (e) that the interest rate on any Interfund Loan does not exceed the interest rate on any outstanding third party borrowings of a borrowing Fund at the time of the Interfund Loan. After the final report is filed, the independent public accountant for the Fund in connection with 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.

18. No Fund will participate in the Credit Facility unless it has fully disclosed in its prospectus or SAI all material facts about its intended participation.

19. The Board of each Fund will satisfy the fund governance standards as defined in Rule 0-1(a)(7) under the Act.

Start Signature

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

Nancy M. Morris,

Secretary.

End Signature End Supplemental Information

Footnotes

1.  Applicants request that the relief apply to (i) the Trusts and their existing and future series (“Funds”), (ii) Funds Management and any successor entity to Funds Management, and (iii) any other registered open-end management investment company or its series advised by Funds Management or a person controlling, controlled by, or under common control (within the meaning of section 2(a)(9) of the Act) with Funds Management (included in the term “Funds”). The term “successor” is limited to entities that result from a reorganization into another jurisdiction or a change in the type of business organization. All existing investment companies that currently intend to rely on the requested relief are named as applicants. Any other existing or future Funds that subsequently rely on the requested order will comply with the terms and conditions in the application.

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2.  In the Matter of Stagecoach Funds, Inc., et al., Investment Company Act Release Nos. 23237 (June 2, 1998) (notice) and 23294 (June 30, 1998) (order).

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3.  If the dispute involves Funds with different Boards, the respective Board of each Fund will select an independent arbitrator that is satisfactory to each of them.

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[FR Doc. E6-6913 Filed 5-5-06; 8:45 am]

BILLING CODE 8010-01-P