CHARTER

 

AUDIT COMMITTEE


1.0 Organization and Independence.

1.1 An Independent Audit Committee

The Board of Directors shall designate an Audit Committee, which shall be composed of at least three directors, all of whom must be “independent directors”. To be considered “independent”, the member, and the compensation received by such member, must satisfy the requirements of all applicable laws and regulations relative to audit committee independence, including without limitation those of the New York Stock Exchange and the Securities and Exchange Commission, as determined by the Board.

1.2 Financial Qualifications.

The members of the Committee shall possess such degree of financial or accounting expertise as may be required by law or by the regulations of the Securities and Exchange Commission or the New York Stock Exchange, as the Board of Directors interprets such qualification in its business judgment.

1.3 Requirements of the New York Stock Exchange.

It is the intention of the Board that the Committee shall satisfy the requirements and standards set forth in the rules of the New York Stock Exchange applicable to audit committees.

2.0 The Committee’s Purposes.

The Committee shall provide assistance to the Board of Directors in fulfilling its responsibility to the Company and its shareholders relating to its oversight of management and its auditors in respect of corporate accounting, financial reporting practices, and the quality and integrity of the financial reports of the Company, including the Company’s compliance with legal and regulatory requirements, the independent auditors’ qualifications and independence, the performance of the Company’s internal audit function and independent auditors, and the preparation of the report required by the rules of the Securities and Exchange Commission to be included in the Company's annual proxy statement.

It is not the role of the Committee to plan or conduct audits, to guarantee the accuracy or quality of the Company’s financial statements or to determine that the financial statements are in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles and applicable laws and regulations. These are the responsibilities of management, the independent auditors and internal auditors. It is the responsibility of the Committee to maintain regular and open communication among the directors, the independent auditors, the internal auditors, and the financial management of the Company.

3.0 The Committee’s Duties and Responsibilities.

In carrying out its responsibilities, the Committee believes its policies and procedures should remain flexible in order to best react to changing conditions and to oversee management's implementation of prudent corporate accounting and reporting policies.

3.1 Appointment of the Independent Auditors.

To the extent required by applicable law or regulation: (i) the Committee will be directly responsible for the appointment, compensation and oversight of the independent auditors (including the resolution of any disagreements between management and the independent auditors regarding financial reporting), (ii) the independent auditors shall report directly to the Committee, and (iii) all audit and non-audit services to be performed by the independent auditors shall be disclosed in accordance with SEC rules. Before the independent auditors are engaged by the Company to render audit or non-audit services, the engagement shall be approved by the Committee or entered into pursuant to pre-approval policies and procedures established by the Committee, provided the policies and procedures are detailed as to the particular service, the Committee is informed of each service, and such policies and procedures do not include delegation of the Committee’s responsibilities to management. The Committee may delegate to one or more members of the Committee who are independent directors the authority to grant preapprovals required by this subsection, and the decisions of the member to whom this authority is delegated shall be presented to the Committee at the next scheduled meeting of the Committee. The independent auditors may not perform for the Company any services that are prohibited by law or regulation. The foregoing requirements do not preclude the Committee from obtaining the input of management, but these responsibilities may not be delegated to management. The Board of Directors and management may communicate with the independent auditors at any time they deem it appropriate.

3.2 Annual Statement from the Independent Auditors.

The Committee is responsible for obtaining from the independent auditors at least annually, a formal written statement delineating all relationships between the auditors and the Company. The Committee shall be responsible for conferring with the independent auditors with respect to any disclosed relationships or services that may affect the objectivity and independence of the independent auditors and for recommending to the Board of Directors such appropriate action as may be necessary to satisfy itself as to the qualifications, performance and independence of the independent auditors.

To the extent required by law or regulation, the annual statement also shall describe: (i) the firm’s internal quality control procedures, (ii) any material issues raised by the most recent internal quality-control review, or peer review, of the firm, or by an 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 (iii) any steps taken to deal with any such issues.

The Committee will comply with all relevant laws and regulations relative to (i) rotation of independent auditors or independent audit personnel and (ii) the performance of services by an independent audit firm when a former employee of that firm currently serves as chief executive officer, chief financial officer, chief accounting officer or equivalent officer of the Company.

3.3 Risk Assessment and Accounting Controls.

The Committee will review with the independent auditors, the Company’s internal auditor, and appropriate financial and accounting personnel the adequacy and effectiveness of the accounting and financial controls of the Company, and guidelines and policies to govern the process by which risk assessment and risk management is undertaken, and will 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 will establish, implement and conduct an annual review of the procedures for (i) the receipt, retention and treatment of complaints received by the Company regarding accounting controls or auditing matters and (ii) the confidential, anonymous submission by employees of the Company of concerns regarding questionable accounting or auditing matters.

3.4 The Annual Audit.

The Committee will meet with the independent auditors and financial management of the Company to review the scope of the proposed audit plan for the current year and the audit procedures to be utilized, and at the conclusion thereof review such audit, including any comments or recommendations of the independent auditors.

The Committee will regularly review with the independent auditors any audit problems or difficulties the auditors encountered in the course of the audit work, including any restrictions on the scope of the independent auditors’ activities or on access to requested information, and any significant disagreements with management, and management’s response.

In that regard, no officer or director of the Company, or any other person acting under the direction thereof, shall violate any law or regulation that prohibits fraudulently influencing, coercing, manipulating, or misleading any independent auditor engaged in the performance of an audit of the financial statements of the Company for the purpose of rendering such financial statements materially misleading.

3.5 Hiring Policies.

The Committee will set clear hiring policies for employees or former employees of the independent auditors.

3.6 The Internal Audit Function

The Company will maintain an internal audit function. The Committee will review the internal audit function of the Company, including the independence and authority of its reporting obligations, the proposed audit plans for the coming year, and the coordination of such plans with the independent auditors. The Committee will receive as necessary notification of material adverse findings from internal audits and a progress report on the proposed internal audit plan, as appropriate, with explanations for changes from the original plan.

3.7 Earnings Releases.

The Committee will discuss earnings press releases and financial information and earnings guidance provided to analysts and rating agencies, though this may be done generally (i.e., discussion of the types of information to be disclosed and the type of presentation to be made) and the Committee need not discuss in advance each earnings release or each instance in which the Company may provide earnings guidance.

3.8 Review of Financial Statements.

The Committee will discuss with management and the independent auditors the annual audited financial statements and the quarterly financial statements, including a discussion of all matters relevant thereto that are required to be discussed under any applicable law or regulation or that the Committee otherwise considers it desirable to discuss. In addition the independent auditors must timely report to the Committee on all matters that are required to be reported under any applicable law or regulation or that the independent auditors otherwise consider it desirable to report.

Each report that contains financial statements (including annual and quarterly reports), and that is required to be prepared in accordance with (or reconciled to) generally accepted accounting principles and filed with the SEC, shall reflect or disclose all information required to be reflected or disclosed under any applicable law or regulation, and in a manner in accordance with such law or regulation.

3.9 Separate Meetings.

Periodically, the Committee shall meet separately with management, with the internal auditor, and with the independent auditors. Among the items to be discussed in these meetings are the independent auditors’ evaluation of the Company’s financial, accounting, and auditing personnel, and the cooperation that the independent auditors receive during the course of the audit.

3.10 Proxy Report.

The Committee will prepare the report required by the rules of the Securities and Exchange Commission to be included in the Company’s annual proxy statement.

3.11 Succession Planning.

The Committee will review accounting and financial staffing and succession planning within the Company as necessary.

3.12 Reporting to the Board.

The Committee will review the matters discussed at each Committee meeting with the Board of Directors. The Committee should review with the full board any issues that arise 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 Company’s independent auditors, or the performance of the internal audit function.

3.13 Investigations.

The Committee will investigate any matter brought to its attention within the scope of its duties to the extent and in such manner as it considers appropriate (including confidential, anonymous submissions by employees of concerns regarding questionable accounting or auditing matters). The Committee will discuss with management and the independent auditors any correspondence with regulators or governmental agencies and any employee complaints or published reports that raise material issues regarding the Company’s financial statements or accounting policies. The Company will follow all provisions of law or regulation that prohibit discipline of or discrimination against employees who report what they reasonably believe to be violations of any law, rule or regulation applicable to the Company.

3.14 Ethics Policy Compliance.

The Committee will review compliance with the Company’s Ethics Policy annually. To the extent required by applicable laws or regulations:

(A) the Ethics Policy will continue to be applicable to senior financial officers of the Company, including its principal financial officer, and its controller or principal accounting officer, and to persons performing similar functions;

(B) the Company immediately shall disclose, by means of the filing of an applicable SEC reporting form, dissemination by the Internet or by other electronic means, any waiver of or change in the Ethics Policy for such senior financial officers;

(C) the Company’s Ethics Policy shall continue to include such standards as are reasonably necessary to promote: (1) honest and ethical conduct, including the ethical handling of actual or apparent conflicts of interest between personal and professional relationships; (2) full, fair, accurate, timely, and understandable disclosure in the periodic reports required to be filed by the Company; and (3) compliance with applicable governmental laws and regulations.

3.15 Legal Compliance.

The Committee will review compliance with the company’s legal compliance policy annually. The Committee will discuss with the Company’s General Counsel legal matters that may have a material impact on the company’s financial statements or compliance policies.

3.16 Review of the Committee Charter.

The Committee will review the Audit Committee charter annually and include it in the company’s proxy statement as required by applicable law or regulation.

3.17 Outside Advisors.

The Committee may obtain advice and assistance from outside legal, accounting or other advisors as it deems appropriate. It may retain these advisors without seeking board approval. The Company will provide appropriate funding, as determined by the Committee, for payment of compensation to the independent auditors, compensation to any advisors engaged by the Committee, and ordinary administrative expenses of the Committee that are necessary or appropriate in carrying out its duties.

3.18 Performance Evaluations.

The Committee will conduct an annual performance evaluation of the Committee.