The comment period for the independent directors rule ended a month ago, and as the Securities and Exchange Commis-sion nears a vote on the measure, speculation is increasing that it will bend to the industry's fierce opposition to having fund boards run by independent chairmen. SEC Chairman Christopher Cox recently said that one alternative might be appointing a lead independent director, and industry insiders have indicated that the SEC might merely call having an independent chairman a "best practice."

Should the SEC decide to walk away from the requirement that fund boards be overseen by impartial chairmen, it would negate much of the good that has been wrought through the 14 new regulations that have been put in place since the mutual fund trading scandal broke in 2003. Of all of the measures that have been passed, this is probably the most important, which is inevitably why it has elicited the greatest resistance.

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