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Swiss Helvetia Board Reconsiders By-Law Changes

The board of trustees of the closed-end Swiss Helvetia Fund announced last week that it would allow investors to vote to approve or reject a series of changes to the fund's by-laws that the board had authorized last year.

The changes included increasing to 75 percent the percentage of shareholder votes necessary to amend the fund's by-laws, and instituting strict minimum eligibility requirements for board members.

On April 2, a shareholder filed a lawsuit against Hottinger Capital Corp. of New York, the fund's adviser, as well as its executives and five independent directors of the fund. The lawsuit alleged that the by-law changes impaired shareholder rights.

The lawsuit has not been dropped despite the board's decision to allow shareholders to vote on the by-law changes, said Gregory Keller, lawyer for the plaintiff with Harnes, Keller in New York. Details of how the shareholder vote would be handled were unclear, he said.

"The board believes these by-laws are important to maintaining a level playing field so the board can best balance the interests of stockholders," said the fund in a statement. "However, enough stockholders have expressed concerns that the board concluded as a matter of investor relations it would put the issues to stockholders."

Shareholders will be able to vote at the fund's 2002 annual meeting, scheduled for May 2002.