The Audit Committee of the Board of Directors (the "Board") of StealthGas Inc. is appointed by, and generally acts on behalf of, the Board. The Committee's purposes shall be:
A. To assist the Board in its oversight of (1) the integrity of the Company's financial statements, including internal control over financial reporting; (2) the Company's compliance with legal and regulatory requirements; and (3) the performance of the Company's internal audit function;
B. To interact directly with and evaluate the performance of the independent auditors, including to determine whether to engage or dismiss the independent auditors, subject to any required shareholder approval, and to monitor the independent auditors' qualifications and independence; and
C. To prepare the report to be included in proxy statements.
Although the Committee has the powers and responsibilities set forth in this Charter, the role of the Committee is oversight. The members of the Committee are not full time employees of the Company and may or may not be accountants or auditors by profession or experts in the fields of accounting or auditing and, in any event, do not serve in such capacity. Consequently, it is not the duty of the Committee to conduct audits, to independently verify management's representations, or to determine that the Company's financial statements are complete and accurate, are prepared in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles ("GAAP"), or fairly present the financial condition, results of operations, and cash flows of the Company in accordance with GAAP. These are the responsibilities of management and the independent auditors. The Committee's considerations and discussions with management and the independent auditors do not ensure that the Company's financial statements are presented in accordance with GAAP, that the audit of the Company's financial statements has been carried out in accordance with generally accepted auditing standards, or that the Company's independent auditors are in fact "independent."
A. The Committee shall be composed of at least three directors, each of whom must be independent. A director shall qualify as independent if the Board has affirmatively determined that the member has met the basic independence criteria set forth in the applicable rules and regulations of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (the "SEC"), the listing criteria of the Nasdaq Stock Market and the Company's Corporate Governance Guidelines. In addition, members of the Committee must also satisfy the following additional requirements in order to be independent:
No Committee member or immediate family member of such Committee member may be an affiliated person of the Company or any of its subsidiaries, as that term is defined in the applicable rules of the SEC; and
No Committee member shall accept, directly or indirectly, any consulting, advisory, or other compensatory fees from the Company or any of its subsidiaries, except for fees for services as a director and member of the Audit Committee and any other Board committee.
B. All members of the Committee must be financially literate. At least one member shall have accounting or related financial management expertise. To the extent possible, at least one member of the Committee shall be a "audit committee financial expert" as that term is defined by the SEC.
C. The members of the Committee shall be nominated by the Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee and appointed by a majority of the Board for one year terms. The Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee shall recommend, and the Board shall designate, one member of the Committee to serve as Chairperson. The members of the Committee shall serve until their resignation, retirement, or removal by the Board and until their successors shall be appointed. No member of the Committee shall be removed except by majority vote of the independent directors of the full Board then in office.
D. Generally, no member of the Committee may serve simultaneously on the audit committees of more than three public companies without a specific Board determination that such simultaneous service will not impair the ability of such Committee member to serve on the Committee.
III. Meetings and Procedures
A. The Committee shall meet as often as it may deem necessary and appropriate in its judgment, but in no event less than four times per year. A majority of the members of the Committee shall constitute a quorum.
B. The Committee shall meet with the independent auditors, the senior personnel performing the Company's internal audit function, and management in separate meetings, as often as it deems necessary and appropriate in its judgment.
C. The Chairperson of the Committee or a majority of the members of the Committee may call a special meeting of the Committee.
D. The Committee may request that any directors, officers, or employees of the Company, or other persons whose advice and counsel are sought by the Committee, attend any meeting to provide such information as the Committee requests.
E. The Committee shall fix its own rules of procedure, which shall be consistent with the By laws of the Company and this Charter.
F. The Committee shall report to the Board on the matters discussed at each meeting of the Committee, including describing all actions taken by the Committee at the meeting.
G. The Committee shall keep written minutes of its meetings, which minutes shall be maintained with the books and records of the Company.
H. The Committee may delegate authority to one or more members of the Committee where appropriate, but no such delegation shall be permitted if the authority is required by law, regulation, or listing standard to be exercised by the Committee as a whole.
I. The Committee shall have the authority to obtain advice and assistance from internal and external legal, accounting, and other advisors, and the Company shall provide appropriate funding for the Committee to retain any such advisors without requiring the Committee to seek Board approval.
IV. Duties and Responsibilities
A. Financial Reporting Process
The Committee shall review and discuss with management and the independent auditors the annual audited financial statements to be included in the Company's annual report on Form 20 F, any interim financial statements to be included in the Company's reports on Form 6 K, the Company's disclosures under "Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations," and any other financial disclosures to be included in SEC filings prior to their release. The Committee shall review major issues regarding accounting principles and financial statement presentations, including any significant changes in the Company's selection or application of accounting principles, and major issues as to the adequacy of internal controls and any special audit steps adopted in light of material control deficiencies; analyses prepared by management and/or the independent auditors setting forth significant financial reporting issues and judgments made in connection with the preparation of financial statements, including analysis of the effects of alternative GAAP methods on the financial statements; the effect of regulatory and accounting initiatives, as well as off balance sheet arrangements, on the financial statements; the use of pro forma or non GAAP financial information; and any correspondence with regulators or published reports that raise material issues with respect to, or that could have a significant effect on, the Company's financial statements.
The Committee shall recommend to the Board whether the audited financial statements should be included in the Company's annual report on Form 20 F.
The Committee shall receive advance copies of earnings press releases prior to their release. The Committee shall review the type of financial information and earnings guidance and the type of presentation to be provided to financial analysts and rating agencies.
The Committee shall prepare any Committee report to be included in the Company's annual proxy statements.
B. Risks and Control Environment
The Committee shall discuss periodically with management the Company's policies and guidelines regarding risk assessment and risk management, as well as the Company's major financial risk exposures and the steps that management has taken to monitor and control such exposures. In addition, the Committee shall obtain periodically from the personnel performing the Company's internal audit function their assessments of the Company's risk management process and system of internal control.
The Committee shall review periodically the Company's Code of Business Conduct and Ethics, and shall have the sole authority to grant waivers of the Company's Code of Business Conduct and Ethics to the Company's directors and executive officers. 3. The Committee shall meet periodically with the senior personnel performing the internal audit function (once that function has been staffed), the general counsel's office, and the independent auditors to review the Company's policies and procedures regarding disclosures that may impact the financial statements and compliance with applicable laws and regulations and the Company's Code of Business Conduct and Ethics.
The Committee shall oversee the Company's disclosure controls and procedures, including internal control over financial reporting, and, where applicable, shall oversee changes in internal control over financial reporting intended to address any significant deficiencies or material weaknesses in the design or operation of internal control and any fraud involving management or other employees that is reported to the Committee. In addition, the Committee shall review and discuss the annual report of management on the effectiveness of the Company's internal control over financial reporting and the independent auditors' report on, and attestation of, such management report, to the extent those reports are required by SEC rules.
C. Independent Auditors
The Committee shall have the sole authority to retain, set compensation and retention terms for, terminate, oversee, and evaluate the activities of the Company's independent auditors, subject to any required shareholder approval. The independent auditors shall report directly to the Committee. The Company shall provide for appropriate funding, as determined by the Committee, for payment of compensation to the independent auditors.
The Committee shall review and approve in advance the retention of the independent auditors for the performance of all audit and non audit services that are not prohibited and the fees for such services, subject to any required shareholder approval. Pre approval of audit and non audit services that are not prohibited may be pursuant to appropriate policies and procedures established by the Committee for the pre approval of such services, including through delegation of authority to a member of the Committee, subject to any required shareholder approval. Any service that is approved pursuant to a delegation of authority to a member of the Committee must be reported to the full Committee at its next scheduled meeting.
Prior to initiation of the audit, the Committee shall meet with the independent auditors to discuss the planning and staffing of the audit, including the impact of applicable rotation requirements and other independence rules on the staffing.
The Committee shall, at least annually, obtain and review a report by the independent auditors describing: (i) the independent auditors' internal quality control procedures; (ii) any material issues raised by the most recent internal quality control review, or peer review, of the auditing firm, or by any inquiry or investigation by governmental or professional authorities or a private sector regulatory board, within the preceding five years, respecting one or more independent audits performed by the auditing firm, and any steps taken to deal with any such issues; and (iii) in order to assess the firm's independence, all relationships between the auditing firm and the Company.The Committee at least annually, shall discuss with the independent auditors the issue of their independence.
The Committee shall review periodically any reports prepared by the independent auditors and provided to the Committee relating to, among other things, the Company's critical accounting policies and practices; alternative treatments within generally accepted accounting principles for policies and practices relating to material items that have been discussed with management, including the ramifications of the use of such alternative disclosures and treatments and the treatment preferred by the independent auditors; and any other material written communications between the independent auditors and management, such as any management letter or schedule of unadjusted differences.
The Committee shall discuss with the independent auditors any audit problems or difficulties, including any restrictions on the scope of the independent auditors' activities or on access to requested information, management's response to same, and any other matters required to be brought to its attention under auditing standards (e.g., SAS 61), and shall resolve any disagreements between the independent auditors and management.
After reviewing the reports from the independent auditors and the independent auditors' work throughout the audit period, the Committee will conduct an annual evaluation of the independent auditors' performance and their independence, including considering whether the independent auditors' quality controls are adequate. This evaluation also shall include the review and evaluation of the audit engagement team, including the lead audit partner. In making its evaluation, the Committee shall take into account the opinions of management and the senior personnel performing the Company's internal audit function. The Committee shall present its conclusions with respect to the evaluation of the independent auditors to the Board.
The Committee shall set clear policies for the hiring by the Company of employees or former employees of the independent auditors. Specifically, the Company shall not hire as its Chief Executive Officer, Chief Financial Officer, Controller, Chief Accounting Officer, or any person serving in an equivalent position, any partner, employee, or former employee of the Company's independent auditors who participated in any capacity in an audit of the Company during the one year period preceding the date of initiation of the then current audit.
D. Internal Audit Function
The Committee shall oversee the activities, organizational structure, and qualifications of the persons performing the internal audit function.
The Committee shall review and approve the appointment and replacement of the senior personnel performing the internal audit function.
The Committee shall review and approve the annual internal audit plan of, and any special projects undertaken by, the personnel performing the internal audit function.
The Committee shall discuss with the personnel performing the internal audit function any changes to, and the implementation of, the internal audit plan and any special projects, and discuss the results of the internal audits and special projects.
The Committee shall review any significant reports to management prepared by the internal audit department and management's responses.
E. Evaluations and Reports
The Committee shall annually review and assess the performance of the Committee and each Committee member and deliver a report to the Board setting forth the results of its evaluation. In conducting this review and assessment, the Committee shall address matters that it considers relevant to its performance, including, at a minimum, the adequacy, appropriateness, and quality of the information and recommendations that the Committee presented to the Board, the manner in which they were discussed or debated, and whether the number and length of meetings of the Committee were adequate for the Committee to complete its work in a thorough and thoughtful manner.
The Committee shall make regular reports to the Board on its activities, including reviewing any issues that arise respecting the quality and integrity of the Company's public reporting, the Company's compliance with legal and regulatory requirements, the performance and independence of the Company's independent auditors, the performance of the Company's internal audit function, and the effectiveness of the Company's disclosure controls and procedures.
F. Other Matters
The Committee shall establish procedures for the approval of all related party transactions. The term “related party transactions” shall refer to transactions required to be disclosed pursuant to Form 20-F, Item 7B.
The Committee shall establish procedures for (i) the receipt, retention, and treatment of complaints received by the Company regarding accounting, internal accounting controls, or auditing matters, and (ii) the confidential, anonymous submission by Company employees of concerns regarding questionable accounting or auditing matters.
The Committee shall review and assess the adequacy of this Charter annually and recommend any proposed changes to the Board for its approval.
The Committee shall maintain free and open communication with the Board, management, the internal auditors, and the independent auditors.
The Committee shall perform any other activities consistent with this Charter, the Company's By laws, and governing law, as the Committee or the Board may deem necessary or appropriate.