Audit Committee Charter
Cedar Shopping Centers, Inc.
Purpose of Committee
The purpose of the Audit Committee (the "Committee") of the Board of Directors (the "Board") of Cedar Shopping Centers, Inc. (the "Company") is to (a) assist the Board with oversight of (i) the integrity of the Company’s financial statements, (ii) the Company’s compliance with legal and regulatory requirements, (iii) the Company’s independent auditor’s qualifications and independence, and (iv) the performance of the Company’s internal audit function and independent auditors; and (b) prepare the report that U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission proxy rules require be included in the Company’s annual proxy statement.
The function of the Committee is oversight. It is not the Committee’s responsibility to certify the Company’s financial statements or to guarantee the report of the independent auditor. The Company’s management is responsible for the (i) preparation, presentation and integrity of the Company’s financial statements, (ii) maintenance of appropriate accounting and financial reporting principles and policies, and (iii) maintenance of internal controls and procedures designed to assure compliance with accounting standards and applicable laws and regulations. The independent auditor is responsible for planning and carrying out a proper audit and reviews. In fulfilling their responsibilities hereunder, it is recognized that members of the Committee are not full-time employees of the Company. As such, it is not the duty or responsibility of the Committee or its members to conduct auditing or accounting reviews or procedures, except to the extent described below under "Performance Evaluations". Each member of the Committee shall be entitled to rely on (i) the integrity of those persons and organizations within and outside the Company from which it receives information and (ii) the accuracy of the financial and other information provided to the Committee by such persons and organizations absent actual knowledge to the contrary (which shall be promptly reported to the Company’s Board). In addition, the evaluation of the Company’s financial statements by the Committee is not of the same scope as, and does not involve the extent of detail as, audits performed by the independent auditor, nor does the Committee’s evaluation substitute for the responsibilities of the Company’s management for preparing, or the independent auditor for auditing, the financial statements.
Committee Duties and Responsibilities
The duties and responsibilities of the Committee are to:
1. Directly appoint, retain, compensate, evaluate and terminate the Company’s independent auditors. The independent auditors shall report directly to the Committee, The Committee shall have the sole authority to approve and/or pre-approve all audit engagement fees and terms, as well as all non-audit engagements with the independent auditor, except for those which are considered de minimus pursuant to Section 202 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002. The Committee shall be directly responsible for the oversight of the independent auditors, including resolution of disagreements between management and the independent auditors. The Committee should meet with the auditors before the start of substantial audit work to discuss the scope of the audit and any concerns of the Committee.
2. At least annually, obtain and review a report by the independent auditor describing: the independent auditor’s internal quality-control procedures; any material issues raised by the most recent internal quality-control review, or peer review, of the independent auditor, or by any inquiry or investigation by governmental or professional authorities, within the preceding five years, respecting one or more independent audits carried out by the independent auditor, and any steps taken to deal with any such issues; and the assessment of all relationships (including auditor independence) between the independent auditor and the Company. After reviewing the foregoing report and the independent auditor’s work throughout the year, the Committee shall evaluate the auditor’s qualifications, performance and independence. This evaluation shall include the review and evaluation of the lead partner of the independent auditor and the appropriateness of rotating the audit firm itself. In making its evaluation, the Committee shall take into account the opinions of management and the Company’s internal auditors (or other personnel responsible for the internal audit function). The Committee shall present its conclusions with respect to the independent auditor to the full Board.
3. Discuss the annual audited financial statements and quarterly financial statements with management and the independent auditor, including the Company’s disclosures under "Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations" prior to issuance. Review the quality and acceptability of accounting principles and financial statement disclosures.
4. Discuss earnings press releases, as well as financial information and earnings guidance provided to analysts and rating agencies. This discussion may be done generally (i.e., discussion of the types of information to be disclosed and the type of presentation to be made). The Committee is not required to discuss in advance each earnings press release or each instance in which the Company provides earnings guidance.
5. As necessary and appropriate to carry out the Committee’s duties, obtain advice and assistance from outside legal, accounting or other advisors.
6. Discuss policies with respect to risk assessment and risk management. While it is the job of the chief executive officer and senior management to assess and manage the Company’s exposure to risk, the Committee must discuss guidelines and policies to govern the process by which this is handled. The Committee should discuss the Company’s major financial risk exposures and the steps management has taken to monitor and control such exposures.
7. Periodically meet separately with management, with internal auditors (or other personnel responsible for the internal audit function), and with independent auditors.
8. Review with the independent auditor any audit problems or difficulties and management’s response. The Committee must regularly review with the independent auditor any difficulties the auditor encountered in the course of the audit work, including any restrictions on the scope of the independent auditor’s activities or on access to requested information, and any significant disagreements with management. The review should also include discussion of the responsibilities, budget and staffing of the Company’s internal audit function.
9. Meet with auditors and management to discuss their evaluation of internal controls and disclosure control procedures and any material weaknesses.
10. Set clear hiring policies for the hiring by the Company of employees or former employees of the independent auditors.
11. Establish procedures for (i) the receipt, retention and treatment of complaints received by the Company, regarding accounting, internal accounting controls, or auditing matters, (ii) the confidential, anonymous submission by employees of the Company of concerns regarding questionable accounting or auditing matters and (iii) whistle blower policy.
The Committee shall consist of at least three members of the Board, each of whom is, in the business judgment of the Board, "independent" under Section 10A-3(b)(1) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (subject to the exemptions provided for in Rule 10A-3(c)), the rules of the New York Stock Exchange and any other securities exchange on which the Company’s securities are listed. Each member of the Committee shall be financially literate (or shall become so within a reasonable period of time after appointment to the Committee), and at least one member of the Committee shall have "accounting or related financial management expertise" as such qualifications are interpreted by the Board in its business judgment. The Board may presume that an audit committee member who meets the definition of "audit committee financial expert" set out in Item 401(e) of Regulation S-K of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 has accounting or related financial management expertise. No Committee member may serve on the audit committees of more than two other public companies, unless the Company’s Board has determined that such service will not impair the effectiveness of the member’s service on the Committee.
The members of the Committee shall be appointed by the Board, and shall serve at the pleasure of the Board for such term or terms as the Board may determine.
The compensation to be paid by the Company to any Committee member must consist solely of director’s fees; provided, however, that pension or other deferred compensation that is not contingent on future service to the Company will not be deemed to violate this requirement.
Committee Structure and Operations
A majority of the Committee shall constitute a quorum. The Board shall designate a member of the Committee as its chairperson. The Committee may act by a majority of the members present at a meeting of the Committee. In the event of a tie vote on any issue, the chairperson’s vote shall decide the issue. The Committee shall meet in person or telephonically at least four times a year at a time and place determined by the Committee chairperson, with further meetings to occur when deemed necessary or desirable by the Committee or its chairperson. The Committee may delegate some or all of its duties to a subcommittee comprising one or more members of the Committee. The Committee may ask members of management or others whose advice and counsel are relevant to the issues then being considered by the Committee to attend any meetings and to provide such pertinent information as the Committee may request.
The Committee shall review the adequacy of this charter annually and evaluate its performance hereunder at least annually and present such report to the full Board. Such report shall include any recommended changes to this charter.
While the fundamental responsibility for the Company’s financial statements and disclosures rests with management and the independent auditor, the Committee shall review: (i) 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 the Company’s internal controls and any special audit steps adopted in light of material control deficiencies; (ii) analyses prepared by management and/or the independent auditor setting forth significant financial reporting issues and judgments made in connection with the preparation of the financial statements, including analyses of the effects of using alternative methods under generally accepted accounting principles ("GAAP") on the financial statements; (iii) the effect of regulatory and accounting initiatives, as well as off-balance sheet structures, on the financial statements of the Company; and (iv) the type and presentation of information to be included in earnings press releases (paying particular attention to any use of "pro forma," or "adjusted" non-GAAP, information), as well as financial information and earnings guidance provided to analysts and rating agencies.
Resources and Authority of the Committee
In discharging its oversight responsibilities, the Committee shall have unrestricted access to the Company’s management, books and records and the authority to retain outside counsel, accountants or other consultants in the Committee’s sole discretion. The Committee may direct any officer of the Company, the independent auditor and/or the Company’s internal audit staff to inquire into and report to the Committee on any matter.
The Company shall provide appropriate funding, as determined by the Committee, for payment of compensation to any outside legal, accounting or other advisors employed by the Committee.
Nothing contained in this charter is intended to, or should be construed as, creating any responsibility or liability of the members of the Committee except to the extent otherwise provided under applicable Maryland law which shall continue to set the legal standard for the conduct of the members of the Committee.
Adopted December 9, 2003