The primary purposes of the committee are to oversee on behalf of the board of directors:
The committee also has the purpose of preparing the audit committee report that SEC rules require the company to include in its annual proxy statement.
The committee's function is one of oversight only and does not relieve management of its responsibilities for preparing financial statements that accurately and fairly present the company's financial results and condition, nor the independent auditors of their responsibilities relating to the audit or review of financial statements.
Number of members. The committee must consist of at least three directors. The board may designate a committee member as the chairperson of the committee, or if the board does not do so, the committee members will appoint a committee member as chairperson by a majority vote of the authorized number of committee members.
Independence. All committee members must have been determined by the board to be independent, as defined and to the extent required in the applicable SEC rules and NYSE listing standards, as they may be amended from time to time (the "listing standards"), for purposes of audit committee membership.
Financial literacy. Each committee member must be financially literate upon appointment to the committee, as determined by the board in accordance with the listing standards. At all times there must be at least one committee member who, as determined by the board meets the accounting or related financial management expertise requirement of the listing standards. In addition, the committee must annually evaluate, and report to the company on a timely basis to enable the company to disclose under applicable SEC rules, whether or not at least one committee member is an audit committee financial expert as defined in the SEC rules.
Appointment. Subject to any requirements of the listing standards and the company's certificate of incorporation and bylaws, (a) the board may appoint and remove committee members and (b) committee members will serve for such terms as the board may fix, and in any case at the board's will, whether or not a specific term is fixed.
Service on other audit committees. The company does not limit the number of public company audit committees on which a committee member serves, but if a member does serve on more than two other public company audit committees, the board must have determined that this simultaneous service would not impair the member's ability to serve on the company's audit committee, and the company must disclose this determination in its proxy statement for its annual meeting.
Overall authority. The committee has the sole authority and direct responsibility for the appointment, compensation, retention, termination, evaluation and oversight of the work of the independent auditors engaged by the company for the purpose of preparing or issuing an audit report or related work or performing other audit, review or attest services for the company. The independent auditors report directly to the committee. The committee's authority includes resolution of disagreements between management and the auditors regarding financial reporting and the receipt of communications from the auditors as may be required under professional standards applicable to the auditors.
Terms of audit and non-audit engagements. The committee must pre-approve all audit, review, attest and permissible non-audit services to be provided to the company or its subsidiaries by the independent auditors. The committee may establish pre-approval policies and procedures in compliance with applicable SEC rules.
Annual quality control report and review. The committee must obtain and review, at least annually, a report by the independent auditors describing:
In addition, the committee's annual review of the independent auditors' qualifications must also include the review and evaluation of the lead partner of the independent auditors for the company's account, and evaluation of such other matters as the committee may consider relevant to the engagement of the auditors, including views of company management and internal finance employees, and whether the lead partner or auditing firm itself should be rotated.
Policy on hiring employees of the auditors. The committee will from time to time establish hiring policies that will govern the company's hiring of employees or former employees of the independent auditors, taking into account possible pressures on the auditors' personnel who might seek a position with the company and whether such hiring conflicts with Rule 2-01 of Regulation S-X of the Securities and Exchange Commission, and report these policies to the full board.
As often and to the extent the committee deems necessary or appropriate, but at least annually in connection with the audit of each fiscal year's financial statements, the committee will:
The committee's quarterly review will normally include:
Annual review of this charter. The committee will review and assess the adequacy of this charter annually and recommend any proposed changes to the full board.
Annual review of performance. The committee will evaluate its performance as the audit committee on an annual basis.
Earnings releases and other financial guidance. The committee will discuss with management earnings press releases and other published financial information or guidance provided to analysts and rating agencies. This may be conducted generally as to types of information and presentations, and need not include advance review of each release, other information or guidance.
Compliance. The committee, to the extent it deems necessary or appropriate, will periodically review with management the company's disclosure controls and procedures, internal control over financial reporting and systems and procedures to promote compliance with laws.
Risk assessment. The committee will periodically:
Conduct codes. The committee will conduct any activities relating to the company's code(s) of conduct and ethics as may be delegated from time to time to the committee by the board.
Complaints and anonymous submissions. The committee will establish and maintain procedures for:
If the committee or the board so determines, the submission procedures may also include a method for interested parties to communicate directly with the board's presiding director or with the non-management directors as a group.
Internal audit. The committee will monitor that the company maintains an internal audit function (which may be outsourced to a firm other than the company's independent auditors). The committee will oversee the internal auditors (or other personnel responsible for the internal audit function), who will report directly to the committee.
Related party transactions. It is the company's policy that the company will not enter into transactions required to be disclosed under item 404 of the SEC's Regulation S-K unless the committee or another independent body of the board first reviews and approves the transactions, with such review and approval to be consistent with applicable provisions of the company's certificate of incorporation. In accordance with this policy, on a timely basis review and, if appropriate, the committee will approve all related party transactions subject to the policy and not already approved by another independent body of the board. Any committee member who is not independent with respect to a related party transaction under review should disclose his or her lack of independence to the remaining committee members and abstain from the review and approval of that transaction.
Internal control over financial reporting. The committee will periodically discuss and review, as appropriate, with the internal auditor, management and the independent auditors:
Reports from legal counsel. The committee will review and take appropriate action with respect to any reports to the committee from legal counsel engaged by the company concerning any material violation of securities law or breach of fiduciary duty or similar violation by the company, its subsidiaries or any person acting on their behalf.
Other reviews and functions. The committee, as it may consider appropriate, may consider and review with the full board of directors, company management, internal or outside legal counsel, the independent auditors or any other appropriate person any other topics relating to the purposes of the committee that may come to the committee's attention. The committee may perform any other activities consistent with this charter, the company's corporate governance documents and applicable listing standards, laws and regulations as the committee or the board of directors considers appropriate.
Meetings. The committee will meet as often as it determines is necessary, but not less than quarterly. The committee may also act by unanimous written consent in lieu of a meeting. The committee will meet separately and periodically with management (including the chief financial officer and chief accounting officer), internal auditors (or other personnel responsible for the internal audit function) and independent auditors. To the extent the committee deems necessary or appropriate, it will also discuss with the company's counsel any legal matters that may materially impact the company's financial statements, internal control over financial reporting or compliance policies. In addition, the committee may meet from time to time with any other persons, as it deems necessary or appropriate.
Procedures. The committee may establish its own procedures, including the formation and delegation of authority to subcommittees, in a manner not inconsistent with this charter, the certificate of incorporation, the bylaws or the listing standards and SEC rules. The chairperson or a majority of the committee members may call meetings of the committee. A majority of the authorized number of committee members constitutes a quorum for the transaction of committee business, and the vote of a majority of the committee members present at a meeting at which a quorum is present will be the act of the committee, unless in either case a greater number is required by this charter, the certificate of incorporation, the bylaws or the listing standards. The committee will keep written minutes of its meetings and deliver copies of the minutes to the corporate secretary for inclusion in the corporate records.
Reports. The committee will timely prepare the audit committee report required to be included in the company's annual meeting proxy statement, and report to the board on the other matters relating to the committee or its purposes, as required by the listing standards or SEC rules. The committee will also report to the board annually the overall results of its annual review of the independent auditors' qualifications, performance and independence and the annual review by the committee of its own performance. The committee also will report to the board on the major items covered by the committee at each committee meeting, and provide additional reports to the board as the committee may determine to be appropriate, including review with the full board of any issues that arise from time to time with respect to the quality or integrity of the company's financial statements, the company's compliance with legal or regulatory requirements, the performance and independence of the independent auditors or the performance of the internal audit function.
Committee access and investigations. The committee is at all times authorized to have direct, independent and confidential access to the independent auditors and to the company's other directors, management and personnel to carry out the committee's purposes. The committee is authorized to conduct or authorize investigations into any matters relating to the purposes, duties or responsibilities of the committee.
Committee advisers and funding.As the committee deems necessary to carry out its duties, it is authorized to select, engage (including approval of the fees and terms of engagement), oversee, terminate and obtain advice and assistance from outside legal, accounting or other advisers or consultants. The company will provide for appropriate funding, as determined by the committee, for payment of:
Reliance on others. Nothing in this charter is intended to preclude or impair the protection provided in Section 141(e) of the Delaware General Corporation Law for good faith reliance by members of the committee on reports or other information provided by others.
Interpretation. For the avoidance of doubt, while the committee has the responsibilities and powers set forth in this charter, nothing in this charter should be interpreted as creating any duty or obligation on the part of the committee to plan or conduct audits or to determine that the company's financial statements and disclosures are complete and accurate and are in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles and applicable rules and regulations. Also, nothing herein should be construed as imposing on the committee responsibility to ensure compliance with laws and regulations and the company's code of business conduct and ethics, or to set or determine the adequacy of the company's reserves. All such matters are the responsibility of management and the independent auditor, as appropriate.