The Forum promotes vigilant, dedicated, well-informed and well-functioning independent directors and boards through a diverse set of materials and programs. We are motivated by our belief - which in turn we believe that virtually all independent directors share - that strong, independent boards provide better results for shareholders, and are thus an asset both to the adviser and to fund shareholders.
The Forum also provides directors with the opportunity to participate directly in addressing and solving the issues that face the fund industry. Importantly, the Forum's agenda is set by members who identify how the organization can best act effectively on behalf of the director community.
The core goals and initiatives of the Forum are set forth below.
Independent Association Representing Independent Directors
- The Forum is run by and for independent directors.
- All draft Forum policy positions, reports and comment letters are reviewed by the Forum Steering Committee, which consists of one director from each member board
- All Forum policy positions, reports and comment letters are reviewed and approved by the Forum's Board.
Provide Worthwhile Educational Resources and Opportunities for Directors
The Forum provides the independent director community with a variety of distinctive and creative educational programs designed to enhance the effectiveness of boards and of individual directors. These programs recognize that directors seek cost-effective educational opportunities, have differing interests, have busy schedules and sometimes prefer not to travel. Our educational program thus includes:
- An annual Critical Issues Policy Conference, designed to provide broad coverage of a variety of topical issues.
- An annual two-day Directors' Institute, which uses a case study and director-based discussions (supported by outside experts) to explore effective approaches to the 15(c) contract renewal process.
- One-day workshops on such focused and timely topics as director oversight of risk, securities lending and accounting, held in major cities across the country.
- Webinars focused on a single topic that can be accessed at any time, provided at no cost to members.
- A members-only online resource library that includes helpful materials from a variety of experts, arranged by topic.
- An internet-based brief daily newsfeed on issues of interest to directors.
Provide Directors with an Independent Voice on Issues Facing the Fund Industry
The Forum identifies issues that need to be addressed and crafts policy positions collaboratively with its members, independent of other market participants. Most importantly, the Forum's Steering Committee reviews all draft positions before they are published in final form.
In recent years, key issues addressed by the Forum include:
- "Friend of the Court" Brief in Jones v. Harris (Standards in Excessive Fee Litigation)
- Practical Guidance on Board Oversight of Risk
- Practical Guidance on Board Oversight of 12b-1 Plans
- Practical Guidance on the Oversight of Sub-Advisers
- Practical Guidance on the Conduct of Board Self-Evaluations
- Comment Letter to the SEC on Money Market Fund Reform Proposals
- Comment Letter to the SEC on Proxy Access Proposals
- Comment Letter to the SEC on the Role of Credit Rating Agencies (NRSROs)
- Letter to the SEC's Division Director, Andrew "Buddy" Donohue on Streamlining Independent Director Responsibilities
Provide Useful Networking Opportunities for Directors
The Forum's leadership recognizes that independent directors do not learn solely from "experts," but also learn by developing relationships with, and discussing the issues and problems they face, with other members of the independent director community. Accordingly, in addition to building networking components into our formal programs (such as the breakout sessions at the Directors Institute and Policy Conference), the Forum provides opportunities for independent directors to have structured and unstructured discussions with one another. These include:
- Sponsorship of the Conference of Fund Leaders, which brings together independent chairs and lead independent directors for peer-to-peer discussion of leadership issues.
- Sponsorship of "newer director" workshops, which provide newer fund directors with guidance for how best to meet the duties, responsibilities, and challenges facing fund directors.
- Organization of informal directors-only discussion groups that permit directors to share their views on the problems they face and the solutions that work for them.
Function Efficiently and Cost-Effectively
Because the cost of membership is ultimately borne by fund shareholders, the Forum strives to function as efficiently as possible and at minimum cost levels. In addition, members benefit from significant discounts on programs and receive many resources without additional charge.