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Friday, September 04, 2009

Another Group Backs Harris With a Brief to the Supreme Court

Reported by Daniel Tovrov

Lines are being drawn in the sand in the Jerry N. Jones et al v. Harris Associates court case as yet another brief in support of Harris' Oakmark Funds has been filed with the Supreme Court. Quickly following the Investment Company Institute's filing, the Mutual Fund Directors Forum sent a fifty page entreaty to the highest court in the nation.

With help from the law firm Dechert, the Mutual Fund Directors Forum hopes to persuade the court not to amend current laws on mutual fund fee determination. The brief approaches the issue from an historical lens, citing in detail articles of the Investment Company Act of 1940, and Congress' many amendments and changing sentiments over the decades.

"Congress intended independent boards to serve in their own right as critical means to assess whether an advisor's fee is appropriate... Congress chose not to dictate the factors boards must consider in approving an advisory contract, let alone the weight to be given any particular factor," the forum's attorneys state in the brief. They go on to say that "in this case, there is no demonstration that the board neglected its duties under the ICA, or was deceived in some material way."

Like the other parties which have weighed in on the issue -- including ICI, the Independent Directors Council, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce -- the Mutual Fund Directors Forum wants the Seventh Circuit Court's decision to be upheld, and the group fears the repercussions of increased government- and independent director-influence over mutual fund fee decisions. 

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