Independent Fund Directors Beef Up Trade Group Effort

May 14, 2004 ( - A mutual fund industry group has beefed up its existing education programs for independent fund directors as the role of those fund officials has been under dramatically increased scrutiny as part of the fund trading scandal.

A news release from the Investment Company Institute (ICI) said a group of independent directors has reformed the ICI’s Directors’ Committee as the Independent Directors Council and set as its new mission the expansion of fund directors’ participation in the development of public policy issues. The group also wants to offer professional development and educational advancement for directors, and increase communications among nearly 3,000 independent fund directors of ICI member companies.

“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 Bodurtha, an independent director with Merrill Lynch Funds, in the ICI announcement. “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.”

Marguerite Bateman, ICI coordinator of the directors program, will become the Managing Director of the Independent Directors Council, according to the announcement. Bateman will continue to attend the independent directors meetings at specific fund families to increase awareness of legislative and regulatory developments and changes that impact fund governance and independent directors.

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, the announcement said.

Leading the new council will be:

  • James Bodurtha, Merrill Lynch Funds, Chairman
  • Dawn-Marie Driscoll, Scudder Funds, Nominating and Governance Committee
  • Marvin Mann, Fidelity Funds, Policy Committee
  • Robert Uek, TT International Funds, Education Committee
  • Samuel Eisenstat, AIG SunAmerica Trust (FC), Communications Committee.

The ICI announcement is at .  More information about the ICI’s director-related activities is at .

In recent months, institutional shareholders in particular have repeatedly raised the issue of the board independence as part of proxy fights at corporate annual meetings and in other settings. It has also been an issue with securities regulators.