Audit Committee Charter
The Audit Committee of Northeast Utilities (the “Company”) is appointed by the Board to assist the Board in monitoring (1) the integrity of the financial statements of the Company, (2) the independent auditors' qualifications and independence, (3) the performance of the Company's internal audit function and independent auditors, and (4) the compliance by the Company with legal and regulatory requirements.
The Audit Committee shall prepare the report required by the rules of the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “Commission”) to be included in the Company's annual proxy statement.
The Audit Committee shall consist of no fewer than three members. The members of the Audit Committee shall meet the independence and financial literacy requirements of the New York Stock Exchange, Section 10A(m)(3) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (the “Exchange Act”) and the rules and regulations of the Commission. The Company shall use all reasonable and prudent efforts to have at least one member of the Audit Committee who is an audit committee financial expert as defined by the Commission. Audit committee members shall not simultaneously serve on the audit committees of more than two other public companies.
The members of the Audit Committee shall be appointed by the Board on the recommendation of the Corporate Governance Committee. One of the members of the Audit Committee shall be designated by the Board to be Chairman. Audit Committee members may be removed by the majority vote of the independent Trustees at any time.
The Audit Committee shall meet as often as it determines, but not less frequently than quarterly. The Audit Committee shall meet periodically with management, the internal auditors and the independent auditors in separate executive sessions. The Audit Committee may request any officer or employee of the Company or the Company's outside counsel or independent auditors to attend a meeting of the Committee or to meet with any members of, or consultants to, the Committee.
Committee Authority and Responsibilities
The Audit Committee shall have the sole authority to appoint or replace the independent auditors (subject, if applicable, to shareholder ratification). The Audit Committee shall be directly responsible for the compensation and oversight of the work of the independent auditors (including resolution of disagreements between management and the independent auditors regarding financial reporting) for the purpose of preparing or issuing an audit report or related work. The independent auditors shall report directly to the Audit Committee.
The Audit Committee shall pre-approve all auditing services and permitted non-audit services (including the fees and terms thereof) to be performed for the Company by its independent auditors, subject to the de minimis exceptions for non-audit services described in Section 10A(i)(1)(B) of the Exchange Act which are approved by the Audit Committee prior to the completion of the audit. The Audit Committee may form and delegate authority to subcommittees consisting of one or more members when appropriate, including the authority to grant pre-approvals of audit and permitted non-audit services, provided that decisions of such subcommittee to grant pre-approvals shall be presented to the full Audit Committee at its next scheduled meeting.
The Audit Committee shall have the authority, to the extent it deems necessary or appropriate, to retain independent legal, accounting or other advisors. The Company shall provide for appropriate funding, as determined by the Audit Committee, for payment of compensation to the independent auditors for the purpose of rendering or issuing an audit report and to any advisors employed by the Audit Committee.
The Audit Committee shall make regular reports to the Board. The Audit Committee shall maintain minutes of its meetings and provide copies of the minutes to the Board. The Audit Committee shall review and reassess the adequacy of this Charter annually and recommend any proposed changes to the Corporate Governance Committee for approval. The Audit Committee shall annually review the Audit Committee's own performance and report its findings to the Board.
The Audit Committee, as necessary or appropriate, shall:
Financial Statement and Disclosure Matters
1. Review and discuss with management and the independent auditors the annual audited financial statements, including disclosures made in management's discussion and analysis, and recommend to the Board whether the audited financial statements should be included in the Company's Form 10-K.
2. Review and discuss with management and the independent auditors the Company's quarterly financial statements, including disclosures made in the management's discussion and analysis portion thereof, prior to the filing of its Form 10-Q, including the results of the independent auditors' review of the quarterly financial statements.
3. Discuss with management and the independent auditors significant financial reporting issues and judgments made in connection with the preparation of the Company's financial statements, including any significant changes in the Company's selection or application of accounting principles, any major issues as to the adequacy of the Company's internal controls and any corrective actions taken in light of material control deficiencies.
4. Review and discuss as required reports from the independent auditors on:
a. All critical accounting policies and practices to be used.
b. All material alternative treatments of financial information within generally accepted accounting principles that have been discussed with management, ramifications of the use of such alternative disclosures and treatments, and the treatment preferred by the independent auditors.
c. Other material written communications between the independent auditors and management, such as any management letter or schedule of unadjusted differences.
d. All other matters required by Statement on Auditing Standards No. 61.
5. Discuss with management the Company's earnings press releases, including the use of “pro forma” or “adjusted” non-GAAP information, as well as financial information and earnings guidance provided to analysts and rating agencies. Such discussion may be done generally (consisting of discussing the types of information to be disclosed and the types of presentations to be made).
6. Discuss with management and the independent auditors the financial accounting and reporting effects of regulatory and accounting initiatives and any off-balance sheet structures.
7. Discuss with management the Company's major financial risk exposures and the steps management has taken to monitor and control such exposures, including the Company's risk assessment, risk management policies and business continuity planning.
disclosures made to the Audit Committee by the Company's CEO and CFO during
their certification process for the Form 10-K and Form 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.
Oversight of the Company's Relationship with the Independent Auditors
9. Review and evaluate the lead partner of the independent auditors' team.
10. Obtain and review a report from the independent auditors at least annually regarding (a) the independent auditors' internal quality-control procedures, (b) any material issues raised by the most recent internal quality-control, peer or Public Company Accounting Oversight Board 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, (c) any steps taken to deal with any such issues, and (d) all relationships between the independent auditors and the Company. Evaluate the qualifications, performance and independence of the independent auditors, including considering whether the auditors' quality controls are adequate and the provision of permitted non-audit services is compatible with maintaining the auditors' independence, and taking into account the opinions of management and internal auditors. The Audit Committee shall present its conclusions with respect to the independent auditors to the Board.
11. Monitor the rotation of the lead (or coordinating) audit partner having primary responsibility for the audit and the audit partner responsible for reviewing the audit as required by law.
12. Recommend to the Board policies for the Company's hiring of employees or former employees of the independent auditors who participated in any capacity in the audit of the Company.
with the independent auditors prior to the annual audit to discuss the planning
and staffing of the audit.
Oversight of the Company's Internal Audit Function
14. Approve the appointment, replacement, reassignment or dismissal of the senior internal auditing executive.
15. Review the significant reports to management prepared by the internal auditing department and management's responses.
with the internal auditing department, management and independent auditors the
internal audit department responsibilities, budget and staffing and any
recommended changes in the planned scope of the internal audit and ensure that
there are no restrictions placed on the internal audit process.
Compliance Oversight Responsibilities
17. Obtain from the independent auditors assurance that Section 10A(b) of the Exchange Act has not been implicated.
18. Establish procedures for the receipt, retention and treatment of complaints received by the Company regarding accounting, internal accounting controls or auditing matters, and the confidential, anonymous submission by employees of concerns regarding questionable accounting or auditing matters.
19. Discuss with the Company's General Counsel legal matters that may have a material impact on the financial statements or the Company's compliance policies.
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 auditors.