1. Purpose and General Responsibilities
The function of the Audit Committee ("Committee") is to assist the Board of Directors ("Board") in fulfilling its oversight responsibilities regarding the (i) reporting practices of the Company and the quality and integrity of financial reports of the Company; (ii) the Company's compliance with legal and regulatory requirements; (iii) review of the independent auditor's qualifications and independence and (iv) review of the performance of the internal audit function and the independent auditors. Further, the Committee shall assist the Board regarding its duty to accurately, completely and fairly present the Company's financial condition and operations to its shareholders and the investment community. In so doing, it is the responsibility of the Committee to maintain free and open means of communication between the directors, the independent auditors, and the financial management of the Company.
The policies and procedures of the Committee in carrying out its responsibilities should remain flexible, in order to best react to changing conditions and to ensure to the directors and shareholders that the accounting and reporting practices of the Company are in accordance with all requirements and are of the highest quality.
To perform this function, the Committee shall have the authority to perform the specific duties enumerated in this Charter and, upon the direction or approval of the Board, to undertake other activities on behalf of the Board. The Committee is authorized to request reports on matters related to its authority, its duties as described in this Charter and on any subject that it deems related to its responsibilities. All employees of the Company shall cooperate as requested by the Chairman of the Committee. The Committee shall recommend to the Board any extensions or changes in the authority or duties of the Committee that it deems appropriate.
The Committee's primary responsibilities include:
· Selection and oversight of independent auditors;
· Meeting with the independent auditors and financial management of the Company to review the scope of the audit for the current year and the audit procedures to be utilized, and at the conclusion thereof, reviewing the results of such audit, including any comments or recommendations of the independent auditors;
· Reviewing with the independent auditors and financial and accounting personnel, the adequacy and effectiveness of the accounting and financial controls of the Company;
· Reviewing reports from the independent auditor regarding the auditor's independence and any disagreements with management on financial, accounting, or reporting matters;
· Monitoring the integrity and effectiveness of the Company's Disclosure Controls;
· Discussing with the officers of the Company all relevant information with respect to the Committee's preparation of the Disclosure Statements and the Committee's evaluation of the effectiveness of the Company's Disclosure Controls and preparing the Audit Committee report related thereto which is required to be included in the Company's annual proxy statement;
· Monitoring the filing of periodic reports; and
· Investigating any matter brought to its attention within the scope of its duties.
The Committee has no authority with respect to the granting of options to directors eligible to receive stock options under already existing stock option plans. The authority of the Committee with respect to any future stock option plans of the Company may be limited by the provisions of such plans as adopted by the Board and approved by the shareholders of the Company.
2. Membership and Organization
The Committee shall have a Chairman appointed by the Board. The members of the Committee shall be financially literate, as that term is defined from time to time by the New York Stock Exchange Listing Standards and as determined by the Board in its business judgment. At least one member of the Committee must have accounting or related financial management expertise, as the Board interprets such qualification in its business judgment. The Committee shall consist of that number of directors as the Board shall determine from time to time, such number not to be less than three members. No member of the Committee shall have a relationship to the Company that may interfere with the exercise of their independent judgment, as such independence is defined by New York Stock Exchange Listing Standards. The members of the Committee shall be "non-employee directors" as that term is defined under the Securities and Exchange Commission ("SEC") Rule 16b-3.
Each member of the Committee must be financially literate, as such qualification in interpreted by the Board in its business judgment, or must become financially literate within a reasonable period of time after his or her appointment to the Committee. At least one member of the Committee shall in the judgment of the Board be an Audit Committee Financial Expert as defined by the SEC.
The Committee may delegate its authority to a subcommittee or subcommittees.
The Committee shall promptly inform the Board of the actions taken or issues discussed at its meetings. This will generally take place at the Board meeting following a Committee meeting.
3. Meeting Attendance and Minutes
The Committee shall meet at such times (not less than four per year) as the Chairman of the Committee shall designate and notice of such meetings shall be given to Committee members in accordance with the manner set forth in the bylaws of the Company which notices of meetings of the Board are given. One-third of the Committee, but not less than two members, shall constitute a quorum for the transaction of business. Unless the Committee by resolution determines otherwise, any action required or permitted to be taken by the Committee may be taken without a meeting if all members of the Committee consent thereto in writing and the writing or writings are filed with the minutes of the proceedings of the Committee. As necessary or desirable, the Chairman of the Committee may require that any members of management be present at meetings of the Committee. Members of the Committee may participate in a meeting through the use of conference telephone or similar communications equipment, so long as all members participating in such meeting can hear one another, and such participation shall constitute presence in person at such meeting.
The Committee shall report to the Board periodically or as required by the nature of its duties on all of its activities and shall make such recommendations to the Board as the Committee decides are appropriate.
4. Responsibilities and Duties
Audit Committee Charter
The Committee shall review this Charter periodically for adequacy and recommend to the Board any necessary changes.
Selection of Independent Auditors
The Committee shall be solely responsible for the selection of independent auditors to audit the financial statements of the Company and its subsidiaries. The Committee has the sole authority to approve all audit engagement agreements and terms.
In connection with its continual assessment of the independence of the outside auditor, the Committee shall pre-approve the retention of the outside auditor for any significant non-audit service and any fee for such service.
Review of Financial Controls
The Committee shall review with the independent auditors and financial and accounting personnel the adequacy and effectiveness of the accounting and financial controls of the Company, and elicit any recommendations for the improvement of such internal control procedures or particular areas where new or more detailed controls or procedures are desirable. The Committee shall receive and review reports from financial management on the status of implementation of recommendations to improve internal controls. The review should include a discussion of the responsibilities, budget and staffing of the Company's internal audit function. Particular emphasis should be given to the adequacy of such internal controls to expose any payments, transactions, or procedures that might be deemed illegal or otherwise improper.
Review of Financial Statements and Accounting Principles
The Committee shall review with management and the independent auditors at the completion of the annual examination:
· the Company's annual financial statements and related footnotes;
· review the Company's disclosures in "Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations" in the Company's periodic reports;
· the independent accountant's audit of the financial statements and report thereon;
· any major issues regarding, or significant changes in, accounting principles or financial statement presentations;
· any special audit steps adopted in light of material control deficiencies;
· significant financial reporting issues and judgments made in connection with the preparation of the financial statements, including analyses of the effects of alternative GAAP methods on the financial statements;
· the effect of regulatory and accounting initiatives, as well as off-balance sheet structures, on the financial statements;
· any serious difficulties or disputes with management encountered during the course of the audit;
· discuss policies with respect to risk assessment and risk management; and
· discuss earnings press releases, as well as financial information and earnings guidance provided to analysts and rating agencies
The Committee shall inquire as to whether the independent auditors are satisfied with the disclosure and content of the financial statements to be presented to the shareholders. The Committee shall also inquire as to the auditor's view of the quality of the Company's accounting principles employed, including any principles employed which are deemed minority practices.
Disclosure and Periodic Reports
The Committee shall review reports (made at least annually) from the independent auditor regarding the (i) the firm's internal quality-control procedures; (ii) auditor's independence (setting forth all relationships between the auditor and the Company); and (iii) any material issues raised by the most recent internal quality control review, or peer review, of the firm, or by any inquiry or investigation by governmental or professional authorities, within the preceding five years, respecting one or more independent audits carried out by the firm, and any steps taken to deal with any such issues.
The Committee shall also review any disagreements with management on financial, accounting or reporting matters, and discuss such reports with the auditor, and if so determined by the Committee, recommend that the Board take appropriate action to satisfy itself of the independence of the auditor or satisfactory resolution of any disagreements on financial, accounting, or reporting matters
The committee shall report, including any recommendations of the Committee, required by the rules of the SEC to be included in the Company's annual proxy statement.
The Committee shall ensure that the independent auditor has sufficient opportunity to meet with the members of the Committee without the members of management present. Among the items to be discussed in these meetings are the independent auditors' evaluation of the Company's financial and accounting personnel and the cooperation that the independent auditors received during the course of the audit.
The Committee shall also separately, periodically meet with management and internal auditors or other personnel responsible for internal audit functions.
Interim Financial Report
The Committee shall review the interim financial report before it is filed with the SEC or other regulators.
No Duty to Conduct Audits
While the Committee has the responsibilities and powers set forth in this Charter, it is not the duty of the Committee to plan or conduct audits or to determine that the Company's financial statements are complete and accurate and are in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles. This is the responsibility of management and the independent auditor. Nor is it the duty of the Committee to conduct investigations or to resolve disagreements, if any, between management and the independent auditor.
Financial Human Resources
The Committee shall review accounting and financial human resources and succession planning with the Company and shall report its findings to the Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee for its review.
The Committee shall set clear hiring policies for employees or former employees of independent auditors.
Code of Ethics for the Chief Executive Officer and Senior Financial Officers
The Committee shall review and revise, as necessary, the Company's Code of Ethics for the Chief Executive Officer and Senior Financial Officers.
The Committee shall design and establish controls and other procedures (which may include procedures currently used by the Company) that are designed to ensure that (i) information required by the Company to be disclosed to the SEC and other written information that the Company will disclose to the investment community is recorded, processed, summarized and reported accurately and on a timely basis and (ii) information is accumulated and communicated to management as appropriate to allow timely decisions regarding such required disclosure ("Disclosure Controls").
The Committee shall review and supervise the preparation of the Company's (i) periodic and current reports, proxy statements, information statements, registration statements and any other information filed with the SEC, (ii) press releases containing financial information, earnings information, information about material acquisitions or dispositions and other information material to the Company's shareholders, and (iii) correspondence containing financial information broadly disseminated to shareholders (collectively, the "Disclosure Statements") and disclosure policies for financial information displayed on the Company's corporate/investor relations Web site.
Annual and Quarterly Reports
The Committee shall evaluate the effectiveness of the Company's Disclosure Controls within 90 days prior to the filing of the Company's Annual Report on Form 10-K and as reasonably practical prior to each Quarterly Report on Form 10-Q (collectively, the "periodic reports"). The Committee shall provide a certification to the appropriate officers prior to filing with the SEC of each periodic report as to (i) the Committee's compliance with its policies and procedures and proper performance of the responsibilities which have been assigned to it and (ii) the Committee's conclusions resulting from its evaluation of the effectiveness of the Disclosure Controls.
Additional Areas of Review
The Committee may participate in other areas of review as designated by the Board, including, but not limited to, the following:
Senior Officer Expenses - At least annually (or more frequently as circumstances require), the Committee shall review the expenses of the senior officers of the Company.
Transactions with Management - The Committee shall review past or proposed transactions between the Company, members of management, directors and associates of directors.
Information Technology - The Committee shall receive an annual report on the adequacy of the Company's computerized information system controls and related security.
Income Tax Matters - At least annually (or more frequently as circumstances require), the Committee shall receive a report from the Company's Chief Financial Officer regarding certain income tax matters, including the status of income tax reserves and governmental tax audits.
Derivative Securities - At least annually (or more frequently as circumstances require), the Committee shall receive a report from the Company's Chief Financial Officer on the Company's use of derivative securities, if any.
The Committee shall review all complaints made in accordance with the Company's Policy on Reporting and Investigating Known or Suspected Improper Activities (Whistleblower Policy) and Policy for Protection of Whistleblowers from Retaliation and Guidelines for Reviewing Retaliation Complaints (Whistleblower Protection Policy). The Committee will comply and carry out all duties assigned to it pursuant to the Whistleblower Policy and Whistleblower Protection Policy.
The Committee shall have the authority, at the expense of the Company, to retain such independent consulting, legal and other advisors as it shall deem appropriate, without management approval.
6. Performance Review
The performance of the Committee shall be evaluated annually by the Board.
The Audit Committee's responsibilities and powers as delegated by the Board of Directors are set forth in this Charter. The Committee relies to a significant extent on information and advice provided by management and independent advisors. Whenever the Committee takes an action, it exercises its independent judgment on an informed basis that the action is in the best interests of the Company and its shareholders.