Corporate Governance Guidelines
Amended: December 9, 2010
The business of National Fuel Gas Company (the “Company”) is conducted by its employees, managers and officers, under the oversight of the Board of Directors (the “Board”), in order to serve the long-term interests of its shareholders. The Board and management recognize that the long-term interests of shareholders are served by considering the interests of customers, employees and the communities in which the Company operates. In addition, the Board requires directors, officers and employees to comply with all legal and regulatory requirements and to adhere to the highest ethical standards in the performance of their duties. To help discharge its responsibilities, the Board has adopted the following guidelines on corporate governance matters.
The Board shall consist of a number of directors, not less than seven nor more than eleven, as determined by a majority vote of the full Board.
The business and affairs of the Company shall be managed by or under the direction of the Board, acting as a body, in accordance with Section 14A:6-1 of the New Jersey Business Corporation Act. Individual directors shall have no authority to act for or on behalf of the Company without the express authorization of the Board, or as may be provided by law, the Certificate of Incorporation or the By-Laws.
A majority of the Board must qualify as independent directors under the listing standards of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). The Board will annually review the relationship that each director has with the Company (either directly or as a partner, shareholder or officer of an organization that has a relationship with the Company). All determinations of director independence will be disclosed in the Company's annual proxy statement.
The Board, with input from the Nominating/Corporate Governance Committee, is responsible for periodically determining the appropriate skills, perspectives, experiences, and characteristics required of Board candidates, taking into account the Company's needs and current make-up of the Board. This assessment should include knowledge, experience, and skills in areas critical to understanding the Company and its business; personal characteristics, such as integrity and judgment; and candidates' commitments to the boards of other publicly-held companies. Each Board member is expected to ensure that other existing and planned future commitments do not materially interfere with the member's service as a director and that he or she devotes the time necessary to discharge his or her duties as a director.
The Nominating/Corporate Governance Committee is responsible for periodically reviewing these qualification guidelines and recommending modifications, as appropriate. The Board believes the qualification guidelines included as Exhibit A are currently appropriate, but it may change these guidelines as the Company's and Board's needs warrant.
Directors are expected to carry out the functions of the Board in a professional and diligent manner, and to spend the time and effort necessary to properly discharge such responsibilities. Accordingly, a director is expected to regularly attend meetings of the Board and Committees on which such director sits, with the understanding that on occasion a director may be unable to attend a meeting. A director who is unable to attend a meeting is expected to notify the Chairman of the Board or the Chair of the appropriate Committee in advance of such meeting. A director is also expected to review provided materials in advance of a meeting.
The Board is responsible for selecting its members and nominating them for election by the stockholders and for filling vacancies on the Board. The Nominating/Corporate Governance Committee will recommend to the Board nominees for election, including, as appropriate, incumbent directors for re-election.
Stockholders may propose candidates for consideration in accordance with the Process for Identifying and Evaluating Nominees for Director included as Exhibit B.
In selecting individuals for nomination, the Committee will seek the input of the Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer and will evaluate candidates using the qualification guidelines included as Exhibit A and the Process for Identifying and Evaluating Nominees for Director included as Exhibit B, as they may be supplemented from time to time. Once a candidate is selected to join the Board, the Chairman of the Board and/or the Chair of the Nominating/Corporate Governance Committee will extend the invitation to join the Board on the Board's behalf.
A director shall normally serve on the Board for a three-year term, except that, subject to paragraph 7, a director appointed to fill a vacancy shall stand for election at the next annual meeting of shareholders.
This same guideline applies to any inside directors, including the Chief Executive Officer of the Company, in the event he or she no longer serves in that position.
As a general guideline, the Board will not nominate an individual to stand for election to the Board by shareholders if at the time of such election the individual will have reached his or her 72nd birthday. The Board shall have the authority to make exceptions to this general guideline on a case-by-case basis.
A. Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer
1. The Chairman of the Board, who may also be the Chief Executive Officer, shall be a director and preside at all meetings of the Board and meetings of the shareholders. The Chairman of the Board is chosen on an annual basis by at least a majority vote of the remaining directors.
2. The Chief Executive Officer, who may also be the Chairman of the Board, shall be appointed by the Board and serve at the pleasure of the Board.
B. Lead Independent Director
The Lead Independent Director will preside at all meetings of the non-management directors at which he or she is present and all meetings of the independent directors at which he or she is present. The Lead Independent Director will perform such other functions as the Board may direct. The Lead Independent Director is chosen on an annual basis by at least a majority vote of the remaining directors.
C. Succession Planning and Leadership Development
Each year, the Chief Executive Officer will report to the Compensation Committee on succession planning and his or her recommendation as to a potential successor, along with a review of any development plans recommended for such individuals. The Committee will make an annual report to the Board on succession planning, and the Board will work with the Committee to evaluate potential successors to the Chief Executive Officer. When the Compensation Committee and the Board review management succession plans for the Chief Executive Officer, they will consider succession in the event of an emergency or retirement of the Chief Executive Officer. The Committee and the Board will also review succession candidates for executive officers other than the Chief Executive Officer and other senior managers as it deems appropriate.
A. Number of Committees
Currently there are five Committees: Executive, Audit, Compensation, Nominating/Corporate Governance, and Financing. The Board believes the current Committee structure is appropriate. From time to time, depending upon the circumstances, the Board may form a new Committee or disband a current Committee.
B. Assignment of Committee Members
The Board appoints members of the Committees on an annual basis. Vacancies in the Committees will be filled by the Board. In making assignments to the Committees, only independent directors may serve on the Audit Committee, the Compensation Committee, or the Nominating/Corporate Governance Committee, and at least one member of the Audit Committee must have accounting or financial management experience, as defined by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission rules or as required under applicable New York Stock Exchange listing requirements. Additionally, a member of the Audit Committee may not sit on more than three other Audit Committees of other public companies, unless the Board determines that such commitments would not impair his or her effective service to the Company.
The Board will take into account tenure on a Committee and give consideration to rotating Committee members periodically, but the Board does not feel that rotation should be mandated as a policy.
C. Committee Charters and Authority
The Audit Committee, Compensation Committee and Nominating/Corporate Governance Committee, each have a written charter, which has been approved by the Board. Each charter delegates certain responsibilities to the respective Committee.
The Executive Committee may exercise Board authority with respect to matters other than those for which action of the full Board is required under applicable law. The Financing Committee may exercise Board authority with respect to specific matters for which the Board has delegated responsibility to it.
Unless delegated to one of the Committees either in the Charter, the Bylaws, a resolution of the Board or a vote of stockholders, each Committee shall make recommendations to the Board and the Board will consider and approve the recommendations. The Committee charters may be changed from time to time by approval of the Board.
A. Number of Meetings
The Board has at least four scheduled meetings per year at which it reviews and discusses reports by management on the performance of the Company, its plans and prospects, as well as immediate issues facing the Company.
B. Role of the Chairman of the Board
The Chairman of the Board shall preside at all meetings of the Board. The Chairman of the Board shall determine the agenda for all Board meetings with the assistance of the Chief Executive Officer. Each director shall be entitled to suggest the inclusion of items on the agenda, with the final determination of the agenda to be made by the Chairman of the Board. The Chairman of the Board shall also determine the timing and length of Board meetings, and the time to be devoted to each topic on the agenda. All procedural matters with respect to the conduct of Board meetings shall be determined by the Chairman of the Board, including whether any individuals other than Board members shall be invited to attend and/or participate in all or any portion of any meetings, and the conditions of such individuals’ attendance and/or participation. In the absence of the Chairman of the Board, the Chief Executive Officer shall exercise all powers and authority conferred herein.
C. Distribution of Board Materials in Advance
Materials for review, discussion and/or action of the Board should be distributed to Board members in advance of meetings whenever practicable.
D. Non-Management Director Meetings / Independent Director Meetings
The non-management directors will meet at regularly scheduled executive sessions without management. The Audit Committee Chair, Nominating/Corporate Governance Committee Chair and Compensation Committee Chair may call the non-management directors to additional sessions without management. The independent directors will meet in executive session without management at least once per year. The Board shall not take formal actions at meetings of the non-management directors or independent directors, although the participating directors may make recommendations for consideration by the full Board.
Pursuant to their fiduciary duties, directors are required to protect and hold confidential all non-public information obtained by reason of their directorship position absent the express or implied permission of the Board of Directors to disclose such information or the written agreement of the Company to permit disclosure. No director shall use Confidential Information for his or her own personal benefit or to benefit persons or entities outside the Company. No director shall disclose Confidential Information outside the Company, either during or after his or her service as a director of the Company, except (i) with authorization of the Board of Directors, (ii) as may be permitted by written agreement with the Company, or (iii) as may be otherwise required by law.
“Confidential Information” is all non-public information entrusted to or obtained by a director by reason of his or her position as a director of the Company. It includes, but is not limited to, non-public information that might be of use to competitors or harmful to the Company or its customers if disclosed, such as
· information about the Company’s financial condition, results of operations, prospects, plans, objectives or strategies, and information relating to mergers and acquisitions, stock splits, stock repurchases, divestitures and other transactions;
· trade secrets, information or techniques, marketing and research and development information, drilling and exploration data, information concerning customers, suppliers, producers and joint venture partners, payroll and benefits information, current/past employee information, technical and computer/software related information, and legal information;
· information about discussions and deliberations relating to business issues and decisions, between and among employees, officers and directors.
To promote a free and unfettered exchange of ideas among directors, the directors will treat all discussions and deliberations that take place at Board meetings as confidential unless disclosure of those discussions is otherwise required by law or permitted by written agreement with the Company. No video or electronic recording of Board proceedings shall be made without the consent of the Chairman of the Board and a majority of the Board.
The Board and the Audit, Compensation and Nominating/Corporate Governance Committees will perform an annual self-evaluation. Each year the directors will provide assessments of the effectiveness of the Board, and the members of the Audit, Compensation and Nominating/Corporate Governance Committees will provide assessments of the effectiveness of their respective committees. These evaluations will be submitted to the Nominating/Corporate Governance Committee which will review them and determine if any additional evaluation is necessary. If the Nominating/Corporate Governance Committee determines that additional evaluation is necessary, it may elect to have such evaluation performed internally, or by an independent corporate governance expert. The Nominating/Corporate Governance Committee will report all evaluation results to the Board and make recommendations for areas which, in its judgment, require improvement.
The Board's compensation philosophy is that directors (other than those who are also salaried officers of the Company or any of its subsidiaries) are entitled to receive reasonable compensation for their services and reimbursement for certain expenses, as may be determined by the Board. The Compensation Committee shall have the responsibility for recommending to the Board changes in compensation levels for non-employee directors. In discharging this duty, the Committee shall be guided by four general principles: compensation should fairly pay directors for work required; compensation should attract and retain highly qualified candidates for Board membership; compensation should align directors' interests with the long-term interests of shareholders; and compensation should be transparent and as simple as possible within the limitations of tax and legal considerations.
Reasonable compensation also may be paid to any person (other than a salaried officer or employee of the Company or any of its subsidiaries) formally requested by the Board to attend a meeting.
Board members will have access to all officers of National Fuel Gas Company. Independent Board members may consult with such officers without senior corporate management present. Members of committees of the Board will also have such access to management as is provided in committee charters or as may otherwise be authorized by the Board. Management is encouraged to invite Company personnel to any Board meeting at which their presence and expertise would help the Board to have a full understanding of matters being considered and to introduce managers with significant potential.
The Board shall have the power at any time by majority vote to retain independent outside financial, legal or other advisors, at the Company’s expense.
Except as otherwise required by NYSE listing standards or applicable law, or as authorized by the Board, communications with parties external to the Company (including but not limited to shareholders, the media, attorneys, vendors, service providers, etc.) shall be the responsibility of the Chief Executive Officer or delegated by the Chief Executive Officer to the appropriate area of the Company. The directors will be consulted from time to time for their advice, as the Chief Executive Officer so determines.
All directors, upon their initial appointment to the Board, shall attend an educational session, thereby enabling them to better perform their duties and recognize and deal with various issues that may arise during their tenure as directors. Subsequently, the directors shall attend ongoing educational programs related to their Board service as the Board deems appropriate.
These Guidelines are in addition to and are not intended to change or interpret any federal or state law or regulation, or the Company's Certificate of Incorporation or Bylaws or any Committee Charter reviewed and approved by the Board. The Guidelines are subject to modification from time to time by the Board.