Audit Committees – NYSE American
Posted by Securities Attorney Laura Anthony | January 29, 2021 Tags:

Like Nasdaq, I’ve written several times about the NYSE American listing requirements including the general listing requirements (see HERE) and annual compliance guidelines (see HERE).  As an aside, although the Nasdaq recently enacted significant changes to its initial listing standards, the NYSE American has not done the same and no such changes are currently anticipated.  I suspect that the NYSE American will see a large uptick in new company applicants as a result.

I recently drilled down on audit committee requirements and director independence standards for Nasdaq and in this and the next blog, I will do the same for the NYSE American.  As required by SEC Rule 10A-3, all exchange listed companies are required to have an audit committee consisting of independent directors.  NYSE American Company Guide Rule 803 delineates the requirements independent directors and audit committees.  Rule 803 complies with SEC Rule 10A-3 related to audit committees for companies listed on a national securities exchange.

SEC Rule 10A-3

SEC Rule 10A-3 requires that each national securities exchange have initial listing and ongoing qualification rules requiring each listed company to have an audit committee comprised of independent directors.  Although the NYSE American rule details its independence requirements, the SEC rule requires that at a minimum an independent director cannot directly or indirectly accept any consulting, advisory or other compensation or be affiliated with the company or any of its subsidiaries.  The prohibition against compensation does not include a reasonable compensation for serving as a director.

Like the NYSE American rules, the SEC allows for different independence standards for foreign private issuers (FPI) following their home country rules and even allows for affiliation as long as the person is not an executive officer of the FPI.

The audit committee of each listed company, in its capacity as a committee of the board of directors, must be directly responsible for the appointment, compensation, retention and oversight of the work of any registered public accounting firm engaged for auditing and audit-related services.  Furthermore, the SEC requires that an executive officer of a listed company promptly notify the national exchange if he or she becomes aware of any material noncompliance with the audit committee requirements by that listed company.

Although charter requirements are detailed in the NYSE American rule, the SEC rule requires that the audit committee establish certain processes and procedures for handling complaints regarding accounting, internal financial controls and auditing matters, including for the confidential submission by employees.  The SEC rule also requires that an audit committee be given the power, authority and funding to engage independent counsel and other advisors to carry out its tasks.  Funding must also be provided to hire audit firms and pay administrative expenses.

The SEC allows for a phase-in for compliance when a company is completing an initial public offering.  In particular, all but one director may be dependent for 90 days following the IPO and a minority of the audit committee may be dependent for one year from effectiveness of the registration statement.  The SEC rule also contains general exemptions from the audit committee requirements including: (i) for consolidated subsidiaries that are listed on another exchange with similar audit committee requirements; (ii) FPI’s that follow home country rules and have a similar committee to an audit committee and satisfy certain additional conditions; and (iii) related to the listing of certain options, futures, asset-backed issuers, investment trusts, a passive trust or foreign governments.  Specific disclosure is required when an exemption is being relied upon including an assessment of whether, and if so, how, such reliance would materially adversely affect the ability of the audit committee to act independently and to satisfy the other requirements of Rule 10A-3.

The SEC rule specifically requires that an exchange must give a listed company the opportunity to cure a defect in the audit committee requirements prior to delisting.  Moreover, the SEC rule provides that if an independent director on the audit committee loses independence as a result of factors outside of their control, that person may remain on the audit committee until the next annual shareholders meeting or one year from the date of the occurrence that caused the board member to no longer be independent.

NYSE American Rule 803

Audit Committee Composition

One of the corporate-governance-related listing requirements is that a company have an audit committee consisting solely of independent directors (for more information on independence qualifications, see HERE) who also satisfy the requirements of SEC Rule 10A-3 and who can read and understand fundamental financial statements including a balance sheet, income statement and cash flow statement. One member of the audit committee must have employment experience in finance or accounting, an accounting certification or other experience that results in the individual’s financial sophistication, including but not limited to being or having been a CEO, CFO or other senior officer with financial oversight.

The audit committee must have at least three members; however, a smaller reporting company is only required to have two members on its audit committee.  For the current definition of a smaller reporting company, see HERE.  Nasdaq does not have this carve-out for smaller reporting companies, though it does have it for compensation committees.

None of the committee members can have participated in the preparation of the financial statements of the company or any of its current subsidiaries for the prior three years.  An individual will be considered to have participated in the preparation of the company’s financial statements if the individual has played any role in compiling or reviewing those financial statements, including a supervisory role. An interim officer who signed or certified the company’s financial statements will be deemed to have participated in the preparation of the company’s financial statements and, therefore, could not serve on the audit committee for three years.

The eligibility requirements to serve on the audit committee apply to all committee members whether or not such member is afforded non-voting status or other limitations on their participation with the committee.  Lawyers that work at a law firm employed by the company cannot serve on the audit committee.

The NYSE American has a limited exception to the independence requirements where a director meets the independence standards in SEC Rule 10A-3 but not the more detailed requirements of the NYSE American company guide, is not currently an executive officer, employee or family member of an executive officer and exceptional circumstances makes the appointment of the person in the best interests of the company and its shareholders.  Specific disclosures are required in the company’s next proxy statement or annual 10-K when relying on this exception including the nature of the relationship that makes the person non-independent and the reasons for the board’s determination.  A committee member appointed under this exception may not serve for more than two years and cannot be chair of the audit committee.

Audit Committee Charter

NYSE American Company Guide Rule 803 requires that each company must certify that it has adopted a formal written committee charter and that the audit committee will review and reassess the charter on an annual basis.  The certification is submitted one time and a copy of the actual charter does not need to be provided to the NYSE American.  However, Item 407(d)(1) of Regulation S-K requires that companies report whether a current copy of its audit committee charter is available on its website and provide the website address.  If the charter is not on the website, companies should include the charter as an appendix to its proxy statement at least once every three years or in any year in which the charter has been materially amended.

The charter must specify: (i) the scope of the audit committee’s responsibilities and how it carries out those responsibilities including structure, processes and membership requirements; (ii) the audit committee’s responsibility to ensure that it receives written statements from the outside auditor regarding relationships between the auditor and the company and actively taking steps for ensuring the independence of the auditor; (iii) the committee’s purpose of overseeing the accounting and financial reporting processes of the company and the audits of the financial statements of the company; and (iv) the specific audit committee responsibilities and authority.

Audit Committee Responsibilities and Authority

The audit committee is responsible for items delineated in SEC Rule 10A-3 and in particular related to: (i) registered public accounting firms, (ii) complaints relating to accounting, internal accounting controls or auditing matters, (iii) authority to engage advisers, and (iv) funding as determined by the audit committee.

The audit committee is required to meet on at least a quarterly basis.  Nasdaq does not specify meeting requirements.

Cure Periods

All noncompliance with audit committee requirements requires prompt notification to the NYSE American.

Consistent with SEC Rule 10A-3, if a member of the audit committee loses independent status for reasons outside the member’s reasonable control, the audit committee member may remain on the audit committee until the earlier of its next annual shareholders meeting or one year from the occurrence of the event that caused the failure to comply with this requirement. A company relying on this provision must provide notice to the NYSE American immediately upon learning of the event or circumstance that caused the noncompliance.

If noncompliance is a result of a vacancy arising on the audit committee, the company will have until the earlier of the next annual shareholders meeting or one year from the occurrence of the event that caused the failure to comply with this requirement – provided, however, that if the annual shareholders meeting occurs no later than 180 days following the event that caused the vacancy, the company shall instead have 180 days from such event to regain compliance.  For a smaller reporting company, if the annual shareholders meeting occurs no later than 75 days following the event that caused the failure to comply with the audit composition requirement, a smaller reporting company shall instead have 75 days from such event to regain compliance.  Nasdaq does not have a different compliance cure period for smaller reporting companies.


If a company has a class of equity securities listed on another exchange with SEC Rule 10A-3 audit committee requirements, they may list securities of a consolidated subsidiary on the NYSE American without having a separate audit committee for that subsidiary.

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NYSE American Board Independence Standards
Posted by Securities Attorney Laura Anthony | January 19, 2020 Tags: ,

NYSE American Company Guide Rule 803 delineates the requirements independent directors and audit committees.  NYSE American Company Guide Rule 802 requires that a majority of the board of directors of a listed company be “independent.”  Rule 803 requires that all members of the audit committee be independent and defines independence and Rules 804 and 805 require that all directors on the nominating and compensation committees, if a company has such committees, be independent.

Under NYSE American Company Guide Rule 803, an “independent director” means a person other than an executive officer or employee of a company.  The board of directors must make an affirmative finding that a director does not have a relationship which would interfere with the exercise of independent judgment in carrying out the responsibilities of a director for that director to qualify as independent.  However, the NYSE American rules specify certain relationships that would disqualify a person from being considered independent.  Stock ownership is not on the list and is not enough, without more, to preclude independence.

Company Guide Rule 803 specifies that the following people cannot be considered independent:

(i) a director who is, or at any time during the past three years was, employed by the company, provided however, interim employment of less than one year would not be a disqualifier as long as such employment had since terminated.  In addition, employment by an entity that was later acquired by the company would not disqualify a director from being independent provided the former officer was not employed by the company after the acquisition;

(ii) a director who accepted or who has a family member who accepted any compensation from the company in excess of $120,000 during any period of twelve consecutive months within the three years preceding the determination of independence, other than: (a) compensation for board or board committee service; (b) compensation paid to a family member who is an employee but not an executive of the company; (c) benefits under a tax-qualified retirement plan, or non-discretionary compensation; or (d) compensation received while acting as an interim officer as long as such employment lasted for less than a year and has since terminated.  Options received for services should be valued using a commonly accepted option pricing formula, such as the Black-Scholes or binomial model at the time of grant.  The option value is considered a payment upon grant even if the option does not immediately vest or if there are conditions to vesting or exercise.  This prohibition is meant to capture any compensation that directly benefits the director or family member and as such would include political contributions to a campaign by either.  However, it is not meant to capture ordinary course business transactions such as interest on an arm’s-length loan;

(iii) a director who is a family member of an individual who is, or at any time during the past three years was, employed by the company as an executive officer;

(iv) a director who is, or has a family member who is, a partner in (other than limited partner), or a controlling shareholder or an executive officer of, any organization to which the company made, or from which the company received, payments for property or services in the current or any of the past three fiscal years that exceed 5% of the recipient’s consolidated gross revenues for that year, or $200,000, whichever is more, other than the following: (a) payments arising solely from investments in the company’s securities; or (b) payments under non-discretionary charitable contribution matching programs;

(v) a director of the company who is, or has a family member who is, employed as an executive officer of another entity where at any time during the past three years any of the executive officers of the company serve on the compensation committee of such other entity; or

(vi) a director who is, or has a family member who is, a current partner of the company’s outside auditor, or was a partner or employee of the company’s outside auditor who worked on the company’s audit at any time during any of the past three years.

Reference to the “company” includes parents and subsidiaries or any other entities that the company consolidates financial statements with, including variable interest entities.  “Executive officer” refers to any person covered by SEC Rule 16a-1(f) and in particular the company’s president, principal financial officer, principal accounting officer, any vice-present in charge of a principal business unit, division or function or any officer or person who performs a policymaking function, which can include officers of a parent or subsidiary.

For purposes of Rule 803, “family member” means a person’s spouse, parents, children and siblings, mothers-in-law and fathers-in-law, sons-in-law and daughters-in-law, brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law, and anyone (other than domestic employees) who shares such person’s home.  This definition differs from the  – see HERE.

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