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Notice

Self-Regulatory Organizations; Notice of Filing and Immediate Effectiveness of a Proposed Rule Change by the American Stock Exchange LLC Relating to Independent Director and Audit Committee Requirements

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Start Preamble May 3, 2001.

Pursuant to Section 19(b)(1) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (“Act”)[1] and Rule 19b-4 thereunder,[2] notice is hereby given that on April 18, 2001, the American Stock Exchange LLC (“Amex” or “Exchange”) filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (“Commission”) the proposed rule change as described in Items I, II, and III below, which Items have been prepared by the Amex. The Commission is publishing this notice to solicit comments on the proposed rule change from interested persons.

I. Self-Regulatory Organization's Statement of the Terms of Substance of the Proposed Rule Change

The Amex proposes to amend Section 121 of the Amex Company Guide to clarify that domestic listed companies are required to have a sufficient number of independent directors on their board of directors to satisfy the Exchange's audit committee. The text of the proposed rule change is set forth below. New text is in italics.

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Section 121. INDEPENDENT DIRECTORS AND AUDIT COMMITTEE

A. Independent Directors

The Exchange requires that domestic listed companies have a sufficient number of independent directors on the company's board of directors to satisfy the audit committee requirements set forth below. Independent directors are not officers of the company and are, in the view of the company's board of directors, free of any relationship that would interfere with the exercise of independent judgment. The following persons shall not be considered independent:

(a)-(e) No change

* * * * *

II. Self-Regulatory Organization's Statement of the Purpose of, and Statutory Basis for, the Proposed Rule Change

In its filing with the Commission, the Amex included statements concerning the purpose of, and basis for, the proposed rule change and discussed any comments it received on the proposed rule change. The text of these statements may be examined at the places specified in Item IV below. The Amex has prepared summaries, set forth in sections A, B, and C below, of the most significant aspects of such statements.

A. Self-Regulatory Organization's Statement of the Purpose of, and Statutory Basis for, the Proposed Rule Change

1. Purpose

The Exchange is proposing to amend Section 121A of the Amex Company Guide to clarify that each domestic listed company is required to have a sufficient number of independent directors on its board of directors to satisfy the audit committee requirements specified in part B of Section 121. Section 121 was amended in December 1999 to implement the recommendations contained in the February 1999 report of the Blue Ribbon Committee on Improving the Effectiveness of Corporate Audit Committees [3] which were aimed at strengthening the independence of the audit committee, making the audit committee more effective, and addressing mechanisms for accountability among the audit committee, the outside auditors, and management.[4] Section 121, particularly when analyzed in conjunction with Section 120 of the Amex Company Guide, currently requires the independent directors referenced therein to be members of the company's board of directors.[5] However, inquiries from several listed companies have led the Exchange to conclude that there may be some confusion among the listed company community with respect to the requirement. Accordingly, to avoid further confusion, the Exchange is proposing to amend Section 121 to clarify that the independent directors must be members of the company's board of directors.

2. Statutory Basis

The Exchange believes that the proposed rule change is consistent with Start Printed Page 23956Section 6(b)(5) [6] of the Act, which requires, among other things, the Exchange's rules to be designed to prevent fraudulent and manipulative acts and practices, to promote just and equitable principles of trade, and, in general, to protect investors and the public interest.

B. Self-Regulatory Organization's Statement on Burden on Competition

The Exchange does not believe that the proposed rule change will result in any burden on competition that is not necessary or appropriate in furtherance of the purposes of the Act.

C. Self-Regulatory Organization's Statement on Comments on the Proposed Rule Change Received From Members, Participants, or Others

The Exchange did not solicit or receive written comments on the proposed rule change.

III. Date of Effectiveness of the Proposed Rule Change and Timing for Commission Action

The proposed rule change has become effective pursuant to Section 19(b)(3)(A)(i) of the Act [7] and subparagraph (f)(1) of Rule 19b-4 thereunder [8] because it constitutes as a stated policy, practice, or interpretation with respect to the meaning, administration, or enforcement of an existing rule of the Exchange. At any time within 60 days of the filing of such proposed rule change, the Commission may summarily abrogate such rule change if it appears to the Commission that such action is necessary or appropriate in the public interest, for the protection of investors, or otherwise in the furtherance of the Act.

IV. Solicitation of Comments

Interested persons are invited to submit written data, views, and arguments concerning the foregoing, including whether the proposed rule change is consistent with the Act. Persons making written submissions should file six copies thereof with the Secretary, Securities and Exchange Commission, 450 Fifth Street, NW., Washington, DC 20549-0609. Copies of the submission, all subsequent amendments, all written statements with respect to the proposed rule change that are filed with the Commission, and all written communications relating to the proposed rule change between the Commission and any person, other than those that may be withheld from the public in accordance with the provisions of 5 U.S.C. 552, will be available for inspection and copying in the Commission's Public Reference Room. Copies of the filing will also be available for inspection and copying at the principal office of the Amex. All submissions should refer to the File No. SR-Amex-2001-24 and should be submitted by May 31, 2001.

Start Signature
For the Commission, by the Division of Market Regulation, pursuant to delegated athority.[9]

Margaret H. McFarland,

Deputy Secretary.

End Signature End Preamble

Footnotes

3.  The Committee's Report is available online at www.amex.com.

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4.  The audit committee requirements are being phased-in over an 18 month period for issuers that were listed on the Amex at the time the changes were adopted.

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5.  Section 120 of the Amex Company Guide specifies that “each company shall utilize [its] Audit Committee or a comparable body of the Board of Directors for the review of potential conflict of interest situations where appropriate” (emphasis added).

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7.  15 U.S.C. 78s(b)(3)(A)(i).

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[FR Doc. 01-11801 Filed 5-9-01; 8:45 am]

BILLING CODE 8010-01-M