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Notice

Proposed Collection; Comment Request

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Upon Written Request, Copies Available From: Securities and Exchange Commission, Office of Investor Education and Advocacy, Washington, DC 20549-0213.

Notice is hereby given that, pursuant to the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 U.S.C. 350l-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.

Section 17(f) (15 U.S.C. 80a-17(f)) under the Investment Company Act of Start Printed Page 233121940 (the “Act”) [1] permits registered management investment companies and their custodians to deposit the securities they own in a system for the central handling of securities (“securities depositories”), subject to rules adopted by the Commission.

Rule 17f-4 (17 CFR 270.17f-4) under the Act specifies the conditions for the use of securities depositories by funds[2] and custodians. The Commission staff estimates that 138 respondents (including 74 active funds, 48 custodians, and 16 possible securities depositories)[3] are subject to the requirements in rule 17f-4. The rule is elective, but most, if not all, funds use depository custody arrangements.[4]

Rule 17f-4 contains two general conditions. First, a fund's custodian must be obligated, at a minimum, to exercise due care in accordance with reasonable commercial standards in discharging its duty as a securities intermediary to obtain and thereafter maintain financial assets.[5] This obligation does not contain a collection of information because it does not impose identical reporting, recordkeeping or disclosure requirements. Funds and custodians may determine the specific measures the custodian will take to comply with this obligation.[6] If the fund deals directly with a depository, the depository's contract or written rules for its participants must provide that the depository will meet similar obligations, which is a collection of information for purposes of the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995. All funds that deal directly with securities depositories in reliance on rule 17f-4 should have either modified their contracts with the relevant securities depository, or negotiated a modification in the securities depository's written rules when the rule was amended. Therefore, we estimate there is no ongoing burden associated with this collection of information.[7]

Second, the custodian must provide, promptly upon request by the fund, such reports as are available about the internal accounting controls and financial strength of the custodian.[8] If a fund deals directly with a depository, the depository's contract with or written rules for its participants must provide that the depository will provide similar financial reports,[9] which is a collection of information for purposes of the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995. Custodians and depositories usually transmit financial reports to funds twice each year.[10] The Commission staff estimates that 48 custodians spend approximately 885 hours (by support staff) annually in transmitting such reports to funds.[11] In addition, approximately 74 funds (i.e., two percent of all funds) deal directly with a securities depository and may request periodic reports from their depository. Commission staff estimates that, for each of the 74 funds, depositories spend approximately 17 hours (by support staff) annually transmitting reports to the funds.[12] The total annual burden estimate for compliance with rule 17f-4's reporting requirement is therefore 902 hours.[13]

If a fund deals directly with a securities depository, rule 17f-4 requires that the fund implement internal control systems reasonably designed to prevent an unauthorized officer's instructions (by providing at least for the form, content, and means of giving, recording, and reviewing all officers' instructions).[14] All funds that seek to rely on rule 17f-4 should have already implemented these internal control systems when the rule was amended. Therefore, there is no ongoing burden associated with this collection of information requirement.[15]

Based on the foregoing, the Commission staff estimates that the total annual hour burden of the rule's collection of information requirement is 902 hours.

The estimates of average burden hours are made solely for the purposes of the Paperwork Reduction Act. These estimates are not derived from a comprehensive or even a representative survey or study of the costs of Commission rules.

An agency may not conduct or sponsor, and a person is not required to respond to a collection of information unless it displays a currently valid control number.

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 will have practical utility; (b) the accuracy of the Commission's estimate of the burden of the collections of information; (c) ways to enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information collected; and (d) ways to minimize the burdens of the collection of information on respondents, including through the use of automated collection techniques or other forms of information technology. Consideration will be given to comments and suggestions submitted in Start Printed Page 23313writing within 60 days of this publication.

Please direct your written comments to Charles Boucher, Director/CIO, Securities and Exchange Commission, C/O Shirley Martinson, 6432 General Green Way, Alexandria, VA 22312; or send an e-mail to: PRA_Mailbox@sec.gov.

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Dated: April 26, 2010.

Florence E. Harmon,

Deputy Secretary.

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Footnotes

2.  As amended in 2003, rule 17f-4 permits any registered investment company, including a unit investment trust or a face-amount certificate company, to use a security depository. See Custody of Investment Company Assets With a Securities Depository, Investment Company Act Release No. 25934 (Feb. 13, 2003) (68 FR 8438 (Feb. 20, 2003)). The term “fund” is used in this Notice to mean a registered investment company.

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3.  The Commission staff estimates that, as permitted by the rule, 2% of all active funds deal directly with a securities depository instead of using an intermediary. The number of custodians is from Lipper Inc.'s Lana Database. Securities depositories include the 12 Federal Reserve Banks and 4 registered depositories.

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4.  Based on responses to Item 18 of Form N-SAR (17 CFR 274.101), approximately 98 percent of all funds now use depository custody arrangements. As of November 30, 2009, approximately 3770 funds out of the 3844 active funds relied on rule 17f-4.

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5.  Rule 17f-4(a)(1). This provision incorporates into the rule the standard of care provided by section 504(c) of Article 8 of the Uniform Commercial Code when the parties have not agreed to a standard. Rule 17f-4 does not impose any substantive obligations beyond those contained in Article 8. Uniform Commercial Code, Revised Article 8—Investment Securities (1994 Official Text with Comments) (“Revised Article 8”).

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6.  Moreover, the rule does not impose any requirement regarding evidence of the obligation.

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7.  The Commission staff assumes that new funds relying on 17f-4 would choose to use a custodian instead of directly dealing with a securities depository because of the high costs associated with maintaining an account with a securities depository. Thus new funds would not be subject to this condition.

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8.  Rule 17f-4(a)(2).

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9.  Rule 17f-4(b)(1)(ii).

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10.  The 48 custodians would handle requests for reports from 3770 fund clients (approximately 79 fund clients per custodian) and the depositories from the remaining 74 funds that choose to deal directly with a depository. It is our understanding based on staff conversations with representatives of custodians that custodians and depositories transmit these reports to clients in the normal course of their activities as a good business practice regardless of whether they are requested. Therefore, for purposes of this PRA estimate, the Commission staff assumes that custodians transmit the reports to all fund clients. If all custodians and depositories transmit these reports to funds in the normal course of their activities, there would be no burden associated with this collection of information. See 5 CFR 1320.3(b)(2) (“The time, effort, and financial resources necessary to comply with a collection of information that would be incurred by persons in the normal course of their activities * * * will be excluded if the agency demonstrates that the reporting, recordkeeping, or disclosure activities needed to comply are usual and customary.”).

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11.  (48 custodians × 2 reports) = 96 reports × 79 fund clients per custodian = 7584 transmissions. The staff estimates that each transmission would take approximately 7 minutes for a total of 885 hours (7 minutes × 7584 transmissions). The estimate of time to transmit reports is based on staff conversations with representatives of custodians.

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12.  (16 depositories x 2 reports) = 32 reports x 4.6 fund clients per depository = 147 transmissions. The staff estimates that each transmission would take approximately 7 minutes for a total of approximately 17 hours (7 minutes x 147 transmissions).

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13.  885 hours for custodians and 17 hours for securities depositories.

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14.  Rule 17f-4(b)(2).

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15.  The Commission staff assumes that new funds relying on 17f-4 would choose to use a custodian instead of directly dealing with a securities depository because of the high costs associated with maintaining an account with a securities depository. Thus new funds would not be subject to this condition.

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[FR Doc. 2010-10214 Filed 4-30-10; 8:45 am]

BILLING CODE 8010-01-P