A group of leading independent mutual fund directors from a wide spectrum of funds have joined together to form the Independent Directors Council.
The objectives of the Council will be to enhance fund directors’ participation in the development of public policy issues, offer professional development and educational advancement for directors, and increase communications among nearly 3,000 independent fund directors of Investment Company Institute (“ICI”) member companies.
The Independent Directors Council is an enhancement of the ICI’s current Directors’ Committee, which was established in 1995 and had a primary focus on education issues for fund directors, ICI said. The newly-created Independent Directors Council will have a broader focus as the activities of independent directors have increased over the past few years.
“The increased focus on fund directors has reinforced the importance of these educational efforts, and also signaled a broader need for the Council to assist independent directors in their governing responsibilities,” said James H. Bodurtha, an independent director with Merrill Lynch Funds and one of the leading advocates for the development of the Independent Directors Council.
“Moving forward we will see more changes and increasing responsibilities. We believe the Independent Directors Council will provide a forum to facilitate director involvement in public policy, best practices and educational development,” Bodurtha said.
Bodurtha noted that the current Directors’ Committee recently has submitted comment letters on several pending regulatory proposals. The Independent Directors Council will facilitate similar initiatives.
The Independent Directors Council will be housed within the ICI and have access to resources within the Institute. Its programs, activities and policy development will be independent and supported by a dedicated staff and resources to support its initiatives, a spokesman for ICI said.
Marguerite Bateman, who has served as the coordinator of the directors program at the ICI, will become the Managing Director of the Independent Directors Council.
“In recent months, an increasing number of independent directors have been urging their colleagues on the ICI Board to expand our current program and create a dedicated office that is focused on their needs and their duties,” said Bateman. “The directors want the Independent Directors Council to build on ICI’s current program, but operate independently in order to ensure that on issues where the interests are divergent, they can express the views of independent directors.”
As Managing Director of the Independent Directors Council, Bateman will continue to attend the independent directors meetings at specific fund families. The purpose of these visits is to increase awareness of legislative and regulatory developments and changes that impact fund governance and independent directors. “In addition,” Bateman noted, “the visits ensure that the Council remains sensitive to the concerns of the directors and can design future programs to address these issues.”
To increase communications and interaction between directors, the Independent Directors Council will continue the chapter meetings in designated cities around the country. The chapter meetings promote dialogue between directors of different fund complexes who face common issues. Local chapters are now active in Boston, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
The Independent Directors Council will continue to offer and expects to enhance comprehensive educational programs designed for fund directors, including annual conferences, specific-issue workshops, and regular updates on regulations and legislation in Washington, ICI said.
Besides Bodurtha and Bateman, the Council’s committee structure and leadership include Dawn-Marie Driscoll, Scudder Funds Committee (Nominating and Governance); Marvin Mann, Fidelity Funds (Policy Committee); Robert Uek, TT International Funds Committee (Education); and Samuel Eisenstat, AIG SunAmerica Trust (FC).