You've got to hand it to Morningstar for sending a strongly worded comment letter to the Securities and Exchange Commission on the validity of independent fund board chairmen-especially as SEC Chairman Christopher Cox appears ready to capitulate on the long-contested issue.

Cox recently said that one alternative to independent directors that the SEC is considering is requiring funds to have a lead independent director. If independent directors were already so influential, naming one of them "lead" would really make little difference. But they aren't influential; they need clout.

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