Audit Committee Charter*

Purpose

Composition

Meetings

Relationship with Independent Accountants

Responsiilities and Duties

A.

Financial Reporting Processes and Documents/Reports Review

B.

Independent Accountants

C.

Outside Advisors

D.

Ethical and Legal Compliance

Limitation of Audit Committee's Role

* This charter has been prepared based on the Securities and Exchange Commissionís final rules relating to financial expert requirements and listed company audit committee standards and rules proposed by the Nasdaq National Market as described in its release dated February 26, 2003. This charter will be reviewed and revised if appropriate when the final rules are promulgated.

 

 

 

 

 

Purpose

The role of the Audit Committee is to assist the Board of Directors (the "Board") in fulfilling its oversight responsibilities related to:

  • the accounting, reporting, and financial practices of the Company and its subsidiaries, including the integrity of the Company's financial statements;
  • the surveillance of administration and financial controls;
  • the Company's compliance with legal and regulatory requirements;
  • the Company's monitoring and enforcement of its Code of Conduct and Ethics;
  • the principal outside auditing firm's qualifications and independence; and
  • the performance of the Company's internal audit function and the Company's principal outside auditing firm.

The Audit Committee shall also prepare the report required by the rules of the SEC to be included in the Company's annual proxy statement.

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Composition

The Board of Directors shall appoint an Audit Committee of at least three members, consisting entirely of independent directors of the Board (as determined by the Board), and shall either designate one member as chairperson or delegate the authority to designate a chairperson to the Audit Committee. Members of the Audit Committee shall be appointed by the Board of Directors upon the recommendation of a majority of the independent directors and may be removed by the Board of Directors in its discretion.

Independence
The independence of Audit Committee members shall be determined pursuant to the rules and regulations set by the SEC, Section 10A(m)(3) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (the "Exchange Act") and the requirements of the National Association of Securities Dealers.

Financial Expertise
All members of the Audit Committee must be able to read and understand financial statements prepared in accordance with
U.S. generally accepted accounting principles at the time of their appointment. In addition the Audit Committee must have at least one committee member that meets the requirements of an "Audit Committee Financial Expert", as such term is defined in Item 401(e) of Regulation S-B and Item 401(h) of Regulation S-K.

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Meetings

The Audit Committee shall meet as often as it determines but no less than once per quarter, either in person or telephonically, and at such times and places as the Audit Committee shall determine. The Audit Committee should have unrestricted access to and meet regularly with each of management, the principal internal auditor of the Company and the principal outside auditing firm to discuss any matters that the Audit Committee or either of these groups believes should be discussed. In addition, the Audit Committee or its chairperson should meet with the independent auditors and management quarterly to review the Company's financial statements. A majority of the members of the Audit Committee present in person or by telephone shall constitute a quorum. The Audit Committee shall report regularly to the full Board of Directors with respect to its activities.

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Relationship with Independent Accountants

The Audit Committee shall be directly responsible, in its capacity as a committee of the Board, for the appointment, compensation, retention and oversight of the principal outside auditing firm. In this regard, the Audit Committee shall have the sole authority to (A) appoint and retain, (B) determine the funding for, and (C) when appropriate, terminate, the outside auditing firm, which shall report directly to the Audit Committee. The Audit Committee will be responsible for resolving any disputes between the outside auditing firms and the Company's management.

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Responsibilities and Duties

To fulfill its responsibilities and duties the Audit Committee shall:

A. Financial Reporting Processes and Documents/Reports Review

1.       Evaluate annually the performance of the Audit Committee and the adequacy of the Audit Committee charter.

2.       Review and discuss with the principal outside auditing firm: (A) the scope of the audit, the results of the annual audit examination by the auditor and any accompanying management letters, and any difficulties the auditor encountered in the course of their audit work, including any restrictions on the scope of the outside auditing firm's activities or on access to requested information, and any significant disagreements with management; and (B) any reports of the outside auditing firms with respect to interim periods, as deemed appropriate by the Audit Committee.

3.       Review and discuss with management and the principal outside auditing firm the annual audited and quarterly unaudited financial statements of the Company, including (A) an analysis of the auditor's judgment as to the quality of the Company's accounting principles, setting forth significant financial reporting issues and judgments made in connection with the preparation of the financial statements; (B) the Company's disclosures under "Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations," including the development, selection and reporting of accounting policies that may be regarded as critical; and (C) major issues regarding the Company's accounting principles and financial statement presentations, including any significant changes in the Company's selection or application of accounting principles and financial statement presentations.

4.       Recommend to the Board whether the financial statements should be included in the Annual Report on Form 10-K.

5.       Evaluate whether management is setting the appropriate tone at the top by communicating the importance of strong control systems.

6.       In accordance with Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act review and discuss the adequacy of the Company's internal controls, any significant deficiencies and material weaknesses if any in internal controls, and any significant changes in such controls with the Company's independent auditors, internal auditors and management.

7.       Review with the Company's independent auditors, internal auditors and management the adequacy and effectiveness of the Company's information management systems.

8.       Periodically review and discuss with the Company's principal internal auditor the scope of the internal audit plan, results of the audits conducted by the Company's internal auditors, inclusive of findings, recommendations, management's response and any significant difficulties encountered during the course of the audit.

9.       Periodically review and discuss the adequacy and effectiveness of the Company's disclosure controls and procedures and management reports thereon.

10.   Review disclosures made to the Audit Committee by the Company's Chief Executive Officer and Chief Financial Officer during their certification process for the Form 10-K and 10-Q about any significant deficiencies in the design or operation of internal controls or material weaknesses therein and any fraud involving management or other employees who have a significant role in the Company's internal controls.

11.   Review and timely discuss with management and the principal outside auditors any material financial or non-financial arrangements of the Company which do not appear on the financial statements of the Company.

12.   Discuss with management any matters that could have a material impact on the Company's financial statements.

13.   Review annually reports of fees for audit, non-audit and legal fees for services rendered.

14.   Review and discuss with the independent auditors their report regarding (A) all critical accounting policies and practices to be used; (B) all alternative treatments of financial information within generally accepted accounting principles that have been discussed with management officials of the Company, ramifications of the use of such alternative disclosures and treatments, and the treatment preferred by the principal independent auditors; and (C) other material written communications between the registered public accounting firms and Company management, such as any management letter comments and schedule of unadjusted differences.

15.   Review with financial management and the principal outside auditing firm the Company's filings with the SEC prior to their filing or prior to the release of earnings reports. The Chair of the Audit Committee may represent the entire Audit Committee for purposes of this review.

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B. Independent Accountants

1.       Approve in advance all audit services to be provided by the principal outside auditing firm, including any written engagement letter related thereto. (By approving the audit engagement, the audit service contemplated in any written engagement letter shall be deemed to have been preapproved.)

2.       Establish policies and procedures for the engagement of the principal outside auditing firm to provide permissible non-audit services, which shall require preapproval by the Audit Committee of all permissible non-audit services to be provided by the outside auditing firm (other than with respect to de minimis exceptions described in Section 10A(i)(1)(B) of the Exchange Act that are approved by the Audit Committee prior to the completion of the audit). Ensure that approval of non-audit services are disclosed to investors in periodic reports required by Section 13(a) of the Exchange Act.

3.       The authority to grant preapproval of audit and non-audit services may be delegated to one or more designated members of the audit committee who are independent directors. Any such delegation shall be presented to the full Audit Committee at its next scheduled meeting.

4.       Consider, at least annually, the independence of the principal outside auditing firm, including whether the outside auditing firm's performance of permissible non-audit services is compatible with the auditor's independence; obtain and review a report by the outside auditing firm describing any relationships between the outside auditing firm and the Company or any relationships between the outside auditing firm and the Company or any other relationships that may adversely affect the independence of the auditor; discuss with the outside auditing firm any disclosed relationship or services that may impact the objectivity and independence of the auditor; and present to the Board of Directors the Audit Committee's conclusions with respect to the independence of the outside auditing firm.

5.       Ensure rotation of the audit partners as required by law.

6.       Review the experience and qualifications of the senior members of the independent auditor team and the quality control procedures of the independent auditors.

7.       Establish policies for the hiring of employees and former employees of the outside auditing firm.

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C. Outside Advisors.

The Audit Committee shall have the authority to retain such outside counsel, accountants, experts and other advisors as it determines appropriate to assist the Audit Committee in the performance of its functions. The Audit Committee shall have sole authority to approve related fees and retention terms and shall receive funding for these appointments and ordinary administrative expenses from the Company.

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D. Ethical and Legal Compliance

1.       Establish, review and update periodically a code of conduct and ethics that applies to the Company's directors, officers and employees and ensure that management has established a system to enforce the code of conduct and ethics.

2.       Approve, if the duty is not delegated to a comparable body of the Board, all related party transactions, which refers to transactions required to be disclosed under Item 404 of Regulation S-K of the Securities and Exchange Act of 1933.

3.       Review with the Company's counsel any legal, tax or regulatory matter that could have a significant impact on the Company's financial statements.

4.       Establish procedures for the receipt, retention, treatment and communication to the Audit Committee of complaints received by the Company regarding violations of the Code of Conduct and Ethics (including suspected fraud), accounting, internal accounting controls or auditing matters.

5.       Establish procedures for the confidential, anonymous submission by employees of concerns, including concerns regarding questionable accounting or auditing matters.

6.       Perform any other activities consistent with this Charter, the Company's bylaws and governing law, as the Audit Committee or the Board deems necessary or appropriate.

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Limitation of Audit Committee's Role

While the Audit Committee has the responsibilities and powers set forth in this Charter, it is not the duty of the Audit 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. These are the responsibilities of management and the independent auditor. Further, it is not the duty of the Audit Committee to conduct investigations or to ensure the Company and its employees comply with laws and regulations and the Company's Code of Conduct and Ethics.