NYSE APPROVES NEW GOVERNANCE GUIDELINES
NYSE Approves Measures to Strengthen Corporate Accountability
Major Steps Aimed at Building Investor Confidence
NEW YORK, Aug. 1, 2002 – The New York Stock Exchange's board of directors today approved significant changes in its listing standards aimed at helping to restore investor confidence by empowering and ensuring the independence of directors and strengthening corporate-governance practices.
"American investors have had their faith in corporate America badly shaken in recent months," said NYSE Chairman and CEO Dick Grasso. "Their confidence and participation are essential to the strength of our markets and economy. Our board had 85 million good reasons – each and every individual investor in the United States – as the basis to take strong action today."
The NYSE board adopted the final recommendations of its Corporate Accountability and Listing Standards (CALS) committee following a two-month comment period in which more than 300 comment letters were received. The Exchange will promptly submit a rule filing to the Securities and Exchange Commission for review.
Mr. Grasso again thanked board members Gerald M. Levin, H. Carl McCall and Leon E. Panetta for co-chairing the committee. "The work of the committee, led by Jerry, Carl and Leon, is an extremely important contribution to restoring investor confidence. The stakes are high – economic growth, jobs and improving the standards of living globally all ultimately lie in the balance."
Putting Investors First
"This marks the culmination of an intensive six months in which we have sought to translate broad and extensive public input into specific measures that address investor concerns," said Mr. Levin, CEO (retired) of AOL TimeWarner Inc. "It is vital to immediately communicate to the public through our actions that we're absolutely committed to rooting out bad practices and bad people, and putting in place a system of governance that clearly puts investor interests first."
"These new standards will have a lasting impact on the culture of corporate America, and will help restore investor confidence," said Mr. McCall, Comptroller of the State of New York and Sole Trustee, Common Retirement Fund of the State of New York. "The reforms we are adopting today are a tremendous step forward towards greater accountability and improved corporate governance."
"Broad public participation and integrity remain at the core of our corporate system, driving our economic growth," said Leon E. Panetta, director of the Panetta Institute for Public Policy. "With our actions today, the NYSE aims to reassure investors that those running our nation's companies share those core values."
Comments Underscored Need for Effective, Sensible Solutions
Following the June 6 release of the initial CALS report, the CALS recommendations garnered strong support from President Bush, SEC Chairman Harvey Pitt, members of Congress, CEOs of listed companies, institutional investors, state pension funds, organizations such as the Business Roundtable and the Council of Institutional Investors, representatives of the financial-services industry, individual investors, and other Exchange constituents. In addition to many meetings, telephone calls and e-mails, the NYSE received more than 300 comment letters, and will release a synopsis of the comments. Some of these comments, as well as legislative developments and further deliberations of the CALS, resulted in several clarifications and modifications of the original recommendations. (A list is attached.)
"The size and breadth of the public response served to strengthen our resolve to recast our corporate-governance requirements with meaningful and substantial change," said Mr. Grasso. "We thank all who provided input throughout the process; taken together, their voices underscored the need for effective, sensible solutions that will build on the strengths of our model of corporate democracy and disclosure, and not detract from it. We expect the SEC will move quickly on our recommendations, and that we will have in place this fall a more effective set of checks and balances."
Selected Final Recommendations of NYSE Corporate Accountability and
Listing Standards Committee
Comparison with Current Rules
|Independent directors must comprise a majority of a board. Companies must have a nominating committee, compensation committee (or committees of the company's own denomination with the same responsibilities) and an audit committee, each comprised solely of independent directors. Controlled companies are exempt but must have a minimum three-person audit committee composed entirely of independent directors.||Listed companies must have a minimum three-person audit committee composed solely of independent directors. No requirement for establishment or composition of nominating or compensation committees.|
|Non-management directors must meet without management in regular executive sessions.||No such requirement.|
|For a director to be deemed "independent," the board must affirmatively determine the director has no material relationship with the listed company (either directly or as a partner, shareholder or officer of an organization that has a relationship with the company).||Existing definition precludes any relationship with the company that may interfere with the exercise of director's independence from management and the company.|
|Independence also requires a five-year "cooling-off" period for former employees of the listed company, or of its independent auditor; for former employees of any company whose compensation committee includes an officer of the listed company; and for immediate family members of the above.||Cooling-off period is three years and references only former employees of the company. Board of directors can make an exception for one former officer, provided the reason is explained in the next proxy statement.|
|Every listed company must have an internal audit function.||No current requirement.|
|Director's compensation must be the sole remuneration from the listed company for audit-committee members.||No current requirement.|
|Listed companies must adopt a code of business conduct and ethics, and must promptly disclose any waivers of the code for directors or executive officers.||No current requirements.|
|Shareholders must be given the opportunity to vote on all stock-option plans, except employment-inducement options, option plans acquired through mergers and tax-qualified plans such as ESOPs and 401(k)s. Brokers may vote customer shares on proposals for such plans only pursuant to customer instructions.||Shareholder approval required of stock-option plans in which officers or directors may participate, but broad-based plans and one-time employment inducements are exempt. Brokers can vote customer shares without instructions as long as the proposal is not contested and the proposal does not cover more than 5 percent of outstanding stock.|
Selected Final Recommendations of NYSE CALS and Comparison (continued)
|Listed companies must publish codes of business conduct and ethics, and key committee charters. Waivers for directors or executive officers must be promptly disclosed.||No current requirements.|
|Listed foreign private issuers must disclose any significant ways in which their corporate-governance practices differ from NYSE rules.||No current requirements.|
|Each listed-company's CEO must certify annually that he or she is not aware of any violation by the company of NYSE corporate-governance standards.||No current requirements.|
|The NYSE may issue a public reprimand letter for violation of a corporate-governance standard, in addition to the existing penalty of delisting.||No current provision for a public reprimand.|
|The NYSE urges every listed company to establish an orientation program for new board members.||No such recommendation has been made previously.|
|In conjunction with leading authorities in corporate governance, the NYSE will develop a Directors Institute.||NYSE has generally supported educational initiatives, but this will be the first formalized program designed for directors.|
Clarifications and Modifications
Reflected in Final CALS Recommendations
(Original Recommendation Number in Italics)