When the Securities and Exchange Commission posts its independent chairman rule for a second time, it will do so amid an industry milieu that is greatly unlike the one it met two years ago. That fact, combined with a number of other developments on the regulatory front, could determine what fixes the regulator must make to the rule and perhaps whether the controversial mandate will ever see the light of day again.

To call the rule controversial, however, would be an understatement. First approved in 2004, it calls for 75% of a fund's board of directors, as well as its chairman, to be independent of the fund. It has drawn cheers from investor advocates, who claim that it would ensure that decisions are made in the best interests of shareholders and not the fund company. Critics assail the measure's costs, as well as the fact that it might take key decision making away from some of the industry's sharpest and most veteran minds.

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