Independent directors made up three-quarters of mutual fund boards at almost 90% of fund companies at the end of last year, according to a report released today by the Independent Directors Council and the Investment Company Institute.

Between 2000 and 2008, the number of fund complexes where independent directors hold 75% or more of board seats rose from 52% to 88%, the groups said in an update to their biennial paper on common fund-governance practices.

Other key findings were that nearly two-thirds of fund complexes report having an independent board chair, more than nine in ten have separate legal counsel for their independent directors, and 97% have a financial expert on their audit committee.

"Looking at this data from thousands of funds, the overall picture is clear: fund boards, in carrying out their essential oversight role, have gravitated toward strong governance practices to best serve fund shareholders," said Amy Lancellotta, IDC's managing director.