NASDAQ/NYSE HAS REQUIREMENTS PERTAINING TO AN ETHICS PROGRAM FOR LISTED COMPANIES
“Companies listed on The NASDAQ Stock Market are required to meet the high standards of corporate governance, as set forth in the NASDAQ Marketplace Rules.” Rule 4350(n), Code of Conduct – “Each company must adopt a code of conduct applicable to all directors, officers and employees. The code must satisfy the definition of a ‘code of ethics’ set out in the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, and it must be publicly available. A company may adopt multiple codes applicable to different types of employees. Any waivers to the Code of Conduct made to directors or executive officers must be approved by the board and publicly disclosed.”
Section 303A – Corporate Governance Listing Standards
303A.10 Code of Business Conduct and Ethics:
“Listed companies must adopt and disclose a code of business conduct and ethics for directors, officers and employees, and promptly disclose any waivers of the code for directors or executive officers.
Commentary: No code of business conduct and ethics can replace the thoughtful behavior of an ethical director, officer or employee. However, such a code can focus the board and management on areas of ethical risk, provide guidance to personnel to help them recognize and deal with ethical issues, provide mechanisms to report unethical conduct, and help to foster a culture of honesty and accountability
Each code of business conduct and ethics must require that any waiver of the code for executive officers or directors may be made only by the board or a board committee and must be promptly disclosed to shareholders. This disclosure requirement should inhibit casual and perhaps questionable waivers, and should help assure that, when warranted, a waiver is accompanied by appropriate controls designed to protect the listed company. It will also give shareholders the opportunity to evaluate the board’s performance in granting waivers.
Each code of business conduct and ethics must also contain compliance standards and procedures that will facilitate the effective operation of the code. These standards should ensure the prompt and consistent action against violations of the code. Each listed company’s website must include its code of business conduct and ethics. The listed company must state in its annual proxy statement or, if the company does not file an annual proxy statement, in the company’s annual report on Form 10-K filed with the SEC, that the foregoing information is available on its website and that the information is available in print to any shareholder who requests it
Each listed company may determine its own policies, but all listed companies should address the most important topics, including the following:
– Conflicts of interest. A ‘conflict of interest’ occurs when an individual’s private interest interferes in any way – or even appears to interfere – with the interests of the corporation as a whole. A conflict situation can arise when an employee, officer or director takes actions or has interests that may make it difficult to perform his or her company work objectively and effectively. Conflicts of interest also arise when an employee, officer or director, or a member of his or her family, receives improper personal benefits as a result of his or her position in the company. Loans to, or guarantees of obligations of, such persons are of special concern. The listed company should have a policy prohibiting such conflicts of interest, and providing a means for employees, officers and directors to communicate potential conflicts to the listed company.
– Corporate opportunities. Employees, officers and directors should be prohibited from (a) taking for themselves personally opportunities that are discovered through the use of corporate property, information or position; (b) using corporate property, information, or position for personal gain; and (c) competing with the company. Employees, officers and directors owe a duty to the company to advance its legitimate interests when the opportunity to do so arises.
– Confidentiality. Employees, officers and directors should maintain the confidentiality of information entrusted to them by the listed company or its customers, except when disclosure is authorized or legally mandated. Confidential information includes all non-public information that might be of use to competitors, or harmful to the company or its customers, if disclosed.
– Fair dealing. Each employee, officer and director should endeavor to deal fairly with the company’s customers, suppliers, competitors and employees. None should take unfair advantage of anyone through manipulation, concealment, abuse of privileged information, misrepresentation of material facts, or any other unfair-dealing practice. Listed companies may write their codes in a manner that does not alter existing legal rights and obligations of companies and their employees, such as “at will” employment arrangements.
– Protection and proper use of company assets. All employees, officers and directors should protect the company’s assets and ensure their efficient use. Theft, carelessness and waste have a direct impact on the listed company’s profitability. All company assets should be used for legitimate business purposes.
– Compliance with laws, rules and regulations (including insider trading laws). The listed company should proactively promote compliance with laws, rules and regulations, including insider trading laws. Insider trading is both unethical and illegal, and should be dealt with decisively.
– Encouraging the reporting of any illegal or unethical behavior. The listed company should proactively promote ethical behavior. The company should encourage employees to talk to supervisors, managers or other appropriate personnel when in doubt about the best course of action in a particular situation. Additionally, employees should report violations of laws, rules, regulations or the code of business conduct to appropriate personnel. To encourage employees to report such violations, the listed company must ensure that employees know that the company will not allow retaliation for reports made in good faith.”