On August 22, 2013, the SEC approved the NYSE’s proposal that permits a company listing in conjunction with an IPO to comply with the internal audit function requirement of Section 303A.07(c) of the NYSE Listed Company Manual within one year of the listing date. NYSE rules now require such company to have an internal audit function in place no later than the first anniversary of its listing date. Previously, NYSE rules only required each listed company to have an internal audit function but did not provide any transition period for companies listing in connection with an IPO.
The new one-year transition period for compliance with an internal audit function requirement expanded NYSE corporate governance provisions, to which a transition period applies in connection with an IPO. Such provisions relate to the composition of the board of directors as well as the composition of the nominating, compensation and audit committees (see Section 303A.00).
The NYSE believes that a transition period for establishing an internal audit function will make the company’s process of implementation of such function more effective and will reduce the costs it faces in its first year as a public company. The NYSE also expects that this transition period would enable the company’s audit committee to play a significant role in the design and implementation of the company’s internal audit function.
In case of a company availing itself of a one-year transition period with respect to its internal audit function, the audit committee must:
- assist board oversight of the design and implementation of the internal audit function; and
- meet periodically with the company personnel primarily responsible for the design and implementation of the internal audit function.
Once the company establishes its internal audit function, the audit committee must (i) assist board oversight of the performance of the company’s internal audit function, and (ii) meet periodically with internal auditors or other personnel responsible for the internal audit function.
In addition, if the listed company does not yet have an internal audit function because it is using the internal audit function transition period, the audit committee’s review with the independent auditor of any audit problems should include a discussion of management’s plans with respect to the responsibilities, budget and staffing of the internal audit function and its plans for the implementation of the internal audit function. Once the transition period is over, the audit committee’s review with the auditors should include a discussion of the responsibilities, budget and staffing of the company’s internal audit function.
The audit committee should also discuss with the board management’s activities with respect to the design and implementation of the internal audit function during the transition period, and after the transition period, the audit committee should review with the full board any issues that arise with respect to the performance of the internal audit function.
Generally, a listed company must maintain an internal audit function to provide management and the audit committee with ongoing assessments of the company’s risk management processes and system of internal control, and the company can outsource an internal audit function to a third party service provider (other than the company’s independent auditor).