PALM DESERT, Calif. The SEC will scrutinize the business relationships of mutual fund accountants as part of a larger effort intended to strengthen the independence of fund directors.

Arthur Levitt, chairman of the SEC, last week expressed concern that fund independent directors may not be getting the information they need because of potential conflicts of interest with fund auditors. SEC officials said they are concerned that auditors, particularly those whose affiliates do consulting work for a fund adviser, might temper their reports to a fund board's independent directors because of separate business relationships with the fund adviser.

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